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NAMB presentation celebrates chaplains, church planting

(From left) NAMB President Kevin Ezell, Canadian National Baptist Convention Executive Director Jeff Christopherson and Tim Patterson, executive director of Baptist State Convention of Michigan, join in prayer during the NAMB presentation to messengers to the 2024 SBC Annual Meeting June 11 in Indianapolis. Photo by Elijah Hickman

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) – The North American Mission Board showcased its work during the SBC Annual Meeting in Indianapolis June 11, highlighting the impactful ministries of evangelism, church planting, chaplaincy and Send Relief.

Church Planting: Focus on Canada, Michigan

“Last year, NAMB reported that, since 2010, Southern Baptists have planted more than 10,000 churches,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. “Now, just a few weeks ago in fact, we surpassed 11,000 churches, 11,071 to be exact. These are churches, not just dots on a map. They are pastors in pulpits. They are people moving from the pew to action. We helped plant these churches for one reason and one reason only — it’s all about the Gospel.”

NAMB President Kevin Ezell told SBC messengers that three of the top 10 AAEO and Cooperative Program giving churches were church plants. Photo by Elijah Hickman

NAMB supports church planting across North America with an emphasis on reaching regions where Southern Baptists have not had as strong of a presence — outside the South.

“We help churches plant churches to reach people for Christ in big cities and in small towns, in suburban neighborhoods and rural communities, next to college campuses and near military installations,” Ezell said. “And it’s working. Twenty-seven percent of all baptisms in states outside the South last year came from churches planted since 2010. God did that, but you helped make it possible through your giving.”

Ezell mentioned that Annie Armstrong Easter Offering giving is up nearly 30 percent since 2010, and there have been six years of all-time giving records to the offering since 2017.

“Your faithful giving is fueling a church planting fire,” Ezell said. “And with me this morning are two leaders who model what it means to be all about the Gospel.”

Ezell then invited Jeff Christopherson, executive director of the Canadian National Baptist Convention, and Tim Patterson, executive director of Baptist State Convention of Michigan, to share their experiences and successes in church planting.

In 2023, there were 38 new churches planted in Canada, the most ever in a single year. Then, 2024 opened with more than 50 church planting candidates in the pipeline to start churches this year.

“I’m leading in a culture where a bunch of kingdom leaders from the very beginning had this idea that the local church is about giving yourself away,” Christopherson said. “So, we don’t see the local church as the end but as the vehicle for the end, which is the kingdom of God. … We’re seeing churches starting with a DNA of multiplication. … They see in their pews the raw material for a movement. They’re discovering and developing and deploying church planting teams from within.”

The generosity of Southern Baptists is what has helped fuel the movement of church planting in Canada. Christopherson credited the partnership with NAMB and Send Network, NAMB’s church planting arm, with providing the resources and care necessary to help them move the mission forward in their nation.

“In Canada, we’re in a place now where the culture is tilted away from the church, where there is a social and economic price to pay to be part of evangelicalism,” Christopherson said. “And what we’re finding out right now is that even in the midst of a very difficult time, we’re seeing the greatest movement of God that we’ve ever seen — record baptisms in our churches in the midst of pervasive darkness … and church plants that are going.”

Christopherson said the partnership with NAMB and Send Network has resulted in more than 200 churches planted in Canada since 2010, which has doubled the number of churches in the CNBC.

“We decided that we can do a lot more together than we can by ourselves,” Tim Patterson, executive director of the Michigan Baptist Convention, told SBC messengers. “As we’ve begun to have more enthusiasm and excitement about what God wants us to do, our associations, our state, our local churches have come together to truly make a Gospel impact. We call it punching holes in the darkness.”

Patterson highlighted the unity and enthusiasm among Michigan pastors, focusing on the 31 percent increase in baptisms. Ezell said three of their top 10 AAEO and Cooperative Program giving churches were church plants. Patterson noted that a recent church plant is the top CP giver in the state.

“In Michigan, our pastors are focused, and they’re all-in for the Gospel. That’s what I love about it,” Patterson said. “We decided that we can do a lot more together than we can by ourselves. As we’ve begun to have more enthusiasm and excitement about what God wants us to do, our associations, our state, our local churches have come together to truly make a Gospel impact. We call it punching holes in the darkness.”

Crossover: Reaching communities

NAMB Vice President of Evangelism Tim Dowdy invited Ryan Strother, executive director of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana; Scooter Kellum, team leader for church and leader mobilization; and Chris Kellermeyer, associational missions strategist for the Crossroads Baptist Association, to join him on stage for a report on Crossover Indianapolis, the annual Southern Baptist evangelistic outreach to engage communities in host cities with the Gospel.

Dowdy shared the successes of Crossover, which brought together local churches, SBC seminary students and volunteers from across North America.

“It was a great joy this year to work with churches all across Indiana and churches particularly in the city of Indianapolis,” Dowdy said. “We had some great partners to work with.”

Dowdy reported more than 1,469 volunteers that engaged through Crossover events; 9,211 homes were visited, 5,393 people heard the Gospel, and 185 people made professions of faith.

Send Relief: Meeting needs, changing lives

NAMB’s presentation concluded with a focus on Send Relief, a joint compassion ministry between NAMB and the International Mission Board. Ezell was joined by IMB President Paul Chitwood and Send Relief President Bryant Wright.

“Send Relief is not another humanitarian organization. We are a Gospel ministry of compassion,” Wright said, “and we recognize that the greatest need in anyone’s life — no matter how much they are hurting from a physical and material perspective — the greatest need in their life is salvation through Jesus Christ.”

Wright said more than 162,000 people came to Christ through Send Relief’s ministry projects around the world in 2023.

Chitwood featured the upcoming Global Hunger Sunday Aug. 25, encouraging churches to participate and support the Global Hunger Relief fund that provides immediate and long-term solutions to food insecurity.

“The reality is, there is a greater hunger crisis facing our world today than in more than four decades,” Chitwood said. “The historic numbers of displaced peoples around the world, global conflicts … famines, so much that’s going on in the world that is leaving so many people hungry.”

Chitwood underscored that funds given to Global Hunger Relief go directly to support Gospel-focused efforts to bring both short-term projects and long-term efforts designed to meet systemic hunger problems.

Honoring Southern Baptist chaplains

The presentation began with a tribute to SBC-endorsed chaplains, introduced by SBC President Bart Barber and led by Chaplain Maj. Gen. Doug Carver, U.S. Army retired, NAMB’s executive director of chaplaincy.

Carver highlighted the Gospel impact chaplains made in 2023, recording almost 100,000 Gospel conversations, 18,000 professions of faith and 1,700 baptisms.

“Our chaplains are on mission with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, going into hard, dark, lonely, desperate, dangerous places,” Carver said. “As they provide a ministry of presence, they must show the same courage, endure the same risks, suffer the same hardships and experience the same emotional distress as those they’re called to serve.”

Carver reported that since 2010, Southern Baptist chaplains have reported more than 1 million Gospel presentations, 184,000 professions of faith and 36,000 baptisms.

Maj. Gen. Randy Kitchens, U.S. Air Force chief of chaplains, offered a prayer for the nation and the chaplains, emphasizing their vital role in serving the military and civilian communities.

NAMB’s presentation at the SBC Annual Meeting offered a glimpse of the collective efforts of Southern Baptists in fulfilling the Great Commission.

“We say often as Southern Baptists we are stronger together. We really are stronger together,” Ezell said. “Thank you for this partnership, and we look forward to many years of serving Southern Baptists and really, literally, the world, through Send Relief. Thank you, Southern Baptists.”