ALPHARETTA, Ga.—Despite another year of uncertainty and challenges connected to the pandemic, Southern Baptists rallied to lift the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® (AAEO) for North American missions to a record $66.5 million after a pandemic-impacted down year in 2020. The news was one of several headline highlights for the North American Mission Board (NAMB) in 2021.
Southern Baptists eclipsed the $2 billion mark given cumulatively to the AAEO during the 2021 offering season as well, underscoring the heart that Southern Baptists have for reaching North America with the gospel.
NAMB announced that Southern Baptists facilitated an increase in new church plants in 2020, up to 588 for a total of 857 new congregations during a challenging pandemic year. Outreach Magazine released its 2021 list of top 100 reproducing churches, and at least a quarter of them were Send Network, Southern Baptist churches.
Along with these highlights, NAMB hosted a Send Conference, announced the addition of two new vice presidents and resourced Southern Baptists for evangelism.
In cooperation with the International Mission Board (IMB), NAMB had the opportunity to serve Southern Baptists by hosting a Send Conference in Nashville, Tenn., ahead of the 2021 Annual Meeting. The thousands of people who attended the conference were called to be united “Together on Mission,” the conference theme.
During the Send Luncheon, Bobby Bowden surprised Mark Richt in what would be Bowden’s final public appearance before he passed away in August of 2021. The two former college football coaches discussed the importance of faith in their day-to-day lives and the need to regularly share the gospel.
Near the end of the year, NAMB announced that Vance Pitman would be coming on board as a NAMB vice president to lead church planting efforts as president of Send Network. That news followed Dhati Lewis’s decision to shift his focus to relaunching a project called BLVD, which focuses on developing and deploying church planters for urban settings.
NAMB intentionally sought to strengthen its relationships with Southern Baptist state conventions by hosting Send Network Summits to celebrate successes and collaborate on strategy moving forward. Milton Hollifield, the longtime executive director of North Carolina Baptists, also joined NAMB in a part-time role to assist in state convention relationships.
Throughout the year, NAMB also cultivated Send Network church planting agreements with several state conventions, including the SBCV, Missouri, Ohio, the SBTC and Utah-Idaho, to name a few that launched in 2021.
Early in the year, Send Network innovated its Send Network Gatherings, hosting localized, in-person events so that smaller groups of church planting missionaries could meet together for face-to-face encouragement and equipping. Send Network was also able to host its orientation in-person for the first time in two years in the fall.
Evangelism and Leadership
The Evangelism and Leadership team began the year by announcing that NAMB would dedicate an additional $5 million to help Southern Baptists reach the next generation with the gospel. Grants related to the new funding were sent to state convention partners in the fall. NAMB served youth leaders who are reaching the next generation through NAMB’s Youth Leader Coaching Network.
NAMB’s evangelism team also continued its Who’s Your One Tour across the United States to encourage churches to make evangelism a top priority and continued offering free evangelism resources to pastors. The team also worked with Southern Baptist state conventions to expand its Timothy + Barnabas ministry efforts to pastors.
Send Relief also launched its national Serve Tour in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The event was the fruit of Send Relief and Oklahoma Baptists working together to serve the city, and more Serve Tour stops are scheduled for 2022.
See more about Send Relief’s 2021 activity in North America and around the world in their 2021 year-end highlight story.
Research and Resources
Trevin Wax joined the NAMB family in order to lead the new resources and research team to better equip pastors and church planters reach North America. One of their first efforts was to help Send Network relaunch NewChurches.com, a resource designed to fuel church planting.
One of NAMB’s key ministries is to assist pastors and other church leaders to stem the tide of dying churches through replanting, and NAMB’s Replant Team was able to see dozens of churches become rejuvenated and thrive. The team served pastors through its Replant Cohort and trained associational leaders and pastors through various trainings and its annual Replant Summit.
In chaplaincy, a Southern Baptist Armed Services chaplain was promoted to Chief of Chaplains for the U.S. Air Force. The promotion recognizes that Southern Baptist chaplains are some of the best in the world at what they do, and NAMB’s chaplaincy team supports them to conduct the ministry they are called to do.