ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Trustees of the North American Mission Board approved sweeping changes Wednesday, Feb. 9, altering the focus, strategy, leadership and organizational structure of the Southern Baptist entity. The changes come almost five months to the day after trustees voted last Sept. 14 to approve Kevin Ezell as NAMB’s president.
The package of changes approved by trustees involves four primary areas: NAMB’s national strategy; a regional approach to how NAMB will do its work; an organizational restructuring that will align NAMB’s staff chart with its new strategy; and four new vice presidents who will give leadership to key ministry areas.
“This is a massive overhaul,” Ezell said. “We believe it’s going to be an historic overhaul.”
STRATEGY SHIFT: ‘SEND NORTH AMERICA’
NAMB’s national strategy — titled Send North America — will focus on mobilizing missionaries and churches for evangelistic church planting. Once churches or potential missionaries have connected with NAMB, after an assessment, NAMB will provide any needed equipping and training before the missionary or church enters the mission field.
Evangelism and leadership development will be integrated throughout the process.
“Sending” churches that partner with NAMB will have a broad range of participation options, up to and including starting a church themselves. Smaller churches can participate in clusters with other churches. All will be encouraged to send mission teams, volunteers and other resources to directly help and partner with church planters on the mission field.
Both sending churches and new church plants will be expected to contribute to Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program and to minister in a manner consistent with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
“This entire strategy points everything we do toward assisting churches in planting healthy Southern Baptist churches,” Ezell said. “Our desire is to mobilize thousands of Southern Baptists to be engaged in church planting.”
He added, “Right now there are four percent involved, our initial goal is to see 10 percent of churches involved in evangelistic church planting.”
The Send North America strategy will take on a regional focus. NAMB trustees approved a new approach to the board’s work that will divide North America into five regions: Northeast, South, Midwest, West and Canada. Each region will have its own vice president who reports directly to Ezell and will work closely with state Baptist convention leaders in that region.
Ezell said state leaders have been an integral part of shaping the new direction for NAMB, and that he is thankful for the lengths state executives have gone to work with him.
“We relate with 42 state association executives. It’s vital we work together — not because we have to but because we want to. They have been incredible. They, too, have a heart to reach North America and they all have a heart for reaching the underserved areas,” he said.
Ezell noted that 80 percent of NAMB’s funding to states already goes to unreached regions and when money starts shifting from Southern states to unreached areas, that percentage will go even higher.
As NAMB funding to Southern states is reduced, Ezell said state leaders will be able to direct that money to specific unreached regions of their choosing. NAMB activity in the South will continue, Ezell said, noting, “We’d be very remiss if we did not continue to invest in the South and plant churches in those areas.”
Ezell indicated NAMB hopes to have new integrated strategic partnership agreements signed with each state convention by the end of March.
NAMB will prioritize its efforts in 50 population centers throughout North America. The initial 25 cities are New York, Washington/Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the Northeast; in the South, Atlanta, Miami and New Orleans; in the Midwest, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, St. Louis, Cleveland and Indianapolis; in the West, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Denver; and in Canada, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.
NEW LEADERSHIP AND ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE
Trustees also approved four candidates for vice presidents Ezell presented for a vote: Jeff Christopherson, vice president, Canada region; Steve Davis, vice president, Midwest region; Larry Wynn, vice president, evangelism; and Aaron Coe, vice president, mobilization.
Ezell said he would cover the Northeast and West regions until vice presidents can be found. Richard Harris and Carlisle Driggers will be NAMB’s ambassadors to the South region until a vice president can be named. Harris is a retired NAMB vice president who served as NAMB’s interim president in the year leading up to Ezell’s election. Driggers is the retired executive leader of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
Six work groups — all focused on the overarching goal of evangelistic church planting — will exist at NAMB’s Alpharetta office: evangelism, mobilization, equipping, ministry controls, communications and missions support.
Other NAMB ministries such as Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, mission education and social ministries remain but will be more specifically focused on supporting the evangelistic church planting process.
Ezell said there are “some very positive things already happening,” referring to budget reallocations that will put millions more in funding on the field for missionaries.
“To put $9 million more dollars to missions on the field in just six months, that’s much faster than the SBC directed.”
Wrapping up the trustee meeting, Tim Dowdy, chairman of NAMB’s trustees and pastor of Eagles Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga., said, “One of the things I really sense from talking to you [trustees] is a lot of excitement about our new direction. It is thrilling to be on the right road headed down the right path — ready to impact America with the Gospel. Our president has done a fantastic job of getting us in the right direction.”