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NAMB celebrates planters, chaplains, Send Relief in presentation to SBC messengers

North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell gives a report to messengers at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans. Photo by Sonya Singh

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – The North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) report and presentation began with messengers and guests at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting rising to give a standing ovation to police chaplain Andrew Ivey, who was a police chaplain on duty during the tragic March 27 Covenant School shooting in Nashville, Tenn.

Nashville Police Chaplain Andrew Ivey tells Southern Baptists about the day he was called to minister to families in the aftermath of a mass shooting at Covenant School in his city. Photo by Sonya Singh

“Even in the midst of pain and loss and hurt and uncertainty, we saw God’s presence there with us. We had myself and our other chaplains who were constantly praying,” Ivey said. “When I wasn’t talking to a family, I was praying that God would give me the words to say, that God would use us to be His arms to love people and help them to see that there’s peace in Jesus Christ, and God still loves you in the midst of this.”

As part of the presentation, NAMB President Kevin Ezell introduced Philip and Jummai Nache, church-planting missionaries who serve in Minnesota. Shortly after being featured as Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (AAEO) missionaries, Jummai was stricken with an illness that impacted her blood circulation and threatened her life.

“Jummai was dying,” Ezell said. “Prayers from around the world were lifted up continuously, and ultimately, Jummai’s doctor told Philip, ‘Your God has come down and saved your wife’s life.’”

Jummai lost both her legs and an arm, Ezell said, but Southern Baptist generosity through the Annie Armstrong offering enabled NAMB to partner with the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention to buy the Nache family a handicapped-equipped van.

As Ezell welcomed Philip and Jummai to New Orleans, attendees rose to honor the pair of missionaries with an ovation.

NAMB’s presentation concluded by featuring Send Relief, the partnership between NAMB and the International Mission Board designed to help Southern Baptists share the Gospel around the world through compassion ministry. IMB president Paul Chitwood and Send Relief president Bryant Wright joined Ezell on the platform.

Send Relief “is a wonderful way to show the love of God in action as we win the right to be heard to share the Good News of Jesus Christ because most of all, we are a Gospel ministry,” said Bryant Wright, president of Send Relief. We’re not a humanitarian organization. We are a Gospel ministry to share the Good News of Jesus.”

In the last two years, several disasters and crises motivated Southern Baptists and others to give and go, to respond to those in desperate need – such as the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria and Hurricane Ian in Florida and the southeastern United States.

“We’ve seen the exponential impact that’s happened through Southern Baptist compassion ministries because of this partnership” between IMB and NAMB, Chitwood said. “Since we launched this partnership three years ago, each year, your giving to bring help and hope to people in North America and among the nations has increased by tens of millions of dollars every single year. So, thank you for that.”

IMB President Paul Chitwood (left), Send Relief President Bryant Wright and NAMB President Kevin Ezell gave Southern Baptists a report from Send Relief, Southern Baptists’ compassion ministry, which is a joint effort of the two mission boards. “Since we launched this partnership three years ago,” Chitwood said, “each year, your giving to bring help and hope to people in North America and among the nations has increased by tens of millions of dollars every single year. So, thank you for that.” Photo by Sonya Singh

Wright and Chitwood underscored the ongoing hunger needs that have been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and encouraged Southern Baptists to give to Southern Baptist’s Global Hunger Relief, which Southern Baptists will emphasize on August 27.

NAMB vice president of evangelism, Tim Dowdy, introduced Southern Baptists to the new NAMB Evangelism Kit that is designed to help churches create a culture of evangelism in their churches. He also welcomed the team from the Louisiana Baptist Convention (LBC) and local associations who helped lay the groundwork for Serve Tour + Crossover.

“I’m thankful for those who came and helped us on this weekend,” said LBC executive director, Steve Horn. “And so, I want to share with you today that there were 12,180 participants in Crossover and the Serve Tour these last few days. Among those participants, we had 3,487 gospel conversations, and we praise the Lord that we had 336 known professions of faith…Thanks be to God, and thanks to Southern Baptists.”

During NAMB’s report to SBC messengers, Ezell began by highlighting the estimated number of people in North America who do not know Jesus – 278,300,000.

“That’s why, at NAMB, it’s all about the Gospel. Why do we provide evangelism resources? Because it’s all about the Gospel,” Ezell said. “Why have we increased our investment in church planting and church planters? Because it’s all about the Gospel. Why have IMB and NAMB combined forces through Send Relief to engage in Christ-centered compassion ministry? Because it’s all about the Gospel.

“But we don’t do it alone. The commitments you and your churches make in the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering make it all possible. Every dollar you give goes straight to our missionaries on the mission field.”

Ezell shared how, since 2010, giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering has increased 27 percent and how Southern Baptists have planted more than 10,000 churches since 2010.

“We are thankful, but we need more planters to plant more churches,” Ezell said. “What we will not do is lower the quality of our planting efforts to superficially promote a higher quantity.”

The current four-year survival rate for church plants is 86.2 percent, and the 10,000 churches planted since 2010 make up nearly 25 percent of all SBC congregations outside the South.

“Nearly one-fourth of all baptisms in those same hard-to-reach regions of the U.S. and Canada come from those same church plants,” said Ezell. “And, at the rate at which our family of churches is planting, by 2030, one-third of the congregations in the SBC will have been planted since 2010.”

Matthew Lahey is currently planting a church in a St. Johns, Newfoundland, community where a strong Gospel presence has been lacking for more than 130 years. Ezell said that Southern Baptists need churches to raise up more church planting missionaries like Lahey.

“I have faith our family of churches can do this, and we can do this together. By sharing by sending and by serving, we as a convention have an unlimited Kingdom opportunity. God has given us a privilege to serve His church, and I stand before you today encouraged, optimistic and excited about the days ahead. As Southern Baptists, we are stronger together, and together, we will continue to advance the name of Jesus.”

Following the report, Jared Moore, messenger from Cumberland Homesteads Baptist Church in Crossville, Tenn., asked about NAMB’s commitment to financial transparency, and Ezell responded by describing some of the measures NAMB’s trustees have put in place to provide financial accountability and oversight, including publishing its annual, independently audited financial reports.

Dusty Deevers, messenger from Grace Community Church in Elgin, Oklahoma, then asked about NAMB’s use of Echo Church in San Francisco for training church planters. Ezell said that NAMB utilizes any number of facilities around North America to host trainings and assessments.

Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.