SALT LAKE CITY (BP) — Trustees of the North American Mission Board have approved the establishment of Send Relief — a new compassion ministry to offer Southern Baptists opportunities to meet physical needs and serve underprivileged communities.
Also during their Oct. 7 meeting, NAMB’s trustees approved a $4 million budget reduction so the entity can send funds to assist International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries.
NAMB President Kevin Ezell, commenting on the Send Relief initiative, noted shortly after trustees closed their meeting in Salt Lake City, “Imagine 40,000 Southern Baptist churches engaged to meet needs in their communities and across North America. Send Relief will give churches hands-on opportunities to alleviate suffering and transform lives.”
Send Relief will launch in 2016 and include compassion ministries to combat hunger, poverty, serve children through foster care and adoption, combat human trafficking, minister to migrants through international learning centers and meet inner-city needs with construction and medical teams.
NAMB trustees approved David Melber as vice president of Send Relief. Melber has led Crossings Ministries camp outreach in Kentucky since 2003.
“Send Relief is going to be an ideal way for us as Southern Baptists to meet a real need — not only for the physical side but to proclaim the Gospel, see people come to Christ and help be part of the church planting effort,” Melber said. (See related story: Send Relief VP Melber brings ‘passion, experience’.)
NAMB’s disaster relief team will be part of Send Relief and continue to have its own director. The mission board will continue to serve as coordinator of national disaster relief responses.
Aid to IMB missionaries
Trustees approved the $4 million budget reduction to assist IMB missionaries during NAMB’s 2015-16 fiscal year. Ezell requested the action in response to the IMB’s announced reduction in personnel of up to 15 percent in order to address ongoing revenue shortfalls.
“This is a Kingdom vote,” declared NAMB trustee chairman Chuck Herring, senior pastor of Collierville First Baptist Church near Memphis, after NAMB trustees unanimously passed the resolution. Next, the SBC Executive Committee must approve the proposed assistance before NAMB can transfer funds to IMB.
In other business:
— Trustees received a report showing that revenue for 2014-15 was 1.15 percent higher than the previous year and revenue exceeded spending for the year.
— Trustees authorized several other position and structure changes in addition to Melber’s in Send Relief. Carlos Ferrer will serve as executive vice president; Kim Robinson will serve as vice president of marketing and ministry support; and Clark Logan will serve as chief financial officer. All three men have been promoted from other roles at NAMB.
— Gary Frost shared with trustees that he has resigned from his role as vice president of NAMB’s Midwest Region to move to the role of national facilitator for prayer and compassion initiatives with Mission America.
Ezell, in his address to trustees, included a brief look back at his first five years at the entity. Among the sharpest contrasts: In 2010 NAMB’s annual summer meeting had 300 attendees and NAMB paid them to attend; in 2015, the Send North America Conference in Nashville drew more than 13,000 attendees and all but a few paid their own way.
Ezell also pointed to downsizing that has allowed more resources to go to the field, better counting and tracking of Southern Baptist church plants and a tripling of resources NAMB sends to Canada.
“You are changing lives,” Ezell told trustees. As examples he mentioned a church plant in Detroit that recently had 250 at a preview service. Another in Augusta, Maine, is now averaging more than 700 a week in worship attendance.
“There are church planters all over North America who, because of your leadership, are being taken care of better than they ever have.”
Ezell closed by thanking trustees for their affirmation of Send Relief and shared his excitement about its potential.
“People are very excited about compassion ministry,” Ezell said. “We believe Send Relief is a way to help thousands of churches take their first missions step.”