LAS VEGAS (BP) – Trustees for the North American Mission Board (NAMB) celebrated a milestone of more than 10,000 churches planted by Southern Baptists since 2010 as 745 church plants were added in 2022. They also saw first-hand the work of church planting and compassion ministry missionaries who are reaching people for Christ and meeting needs in Las Vegas, a city where life’s extremes are on display more openly than perhaps anywhere else in North America.
As Trustees met May 1-2, NAMB President Kevin Ezell took a moment during the group’s full board session May 2 to celebrate the privilege NAMB has to help Southern Baptist churches start new churches.
“10,000 new church plants since 2010. That God would allow us to be just a very small part of that is just incredible,” Ezell said.
Ezell reminded the group that NAMB’s focus is more on quality than quantity, pointing to a strong four-year sustainability rate that church plants have seen in recent years.
After morning committee meetings Monday, May 1, trustees set out on a vision tour, starting at Hope Church. Planted in 2001 by Vance Pitman, now president of Send Network, NAMB’s church planting arm, Hope has fully embraced the Great Commission by starting 82 churches. The church also established a vibrant compassion ministry—the Hub—which shares Christ with people who struggle under the weight of homelessness, hunger, human trafficking and many of the other challenges that beset people at the margins in so many large cities. The Hub is one of Send Relief’s 20 ministry centers.
At Hope, trustees had lunch served from a food truck operated by Goodness Gracious, the Hub’s feeding ministry to homeless residents. While there, they met church planter Ryan Ivy and heard from Send Las Vegas missionary Heiden Ratner as well as Kathleen Kahl, ministry center director at the Hub.
Trustees also visited the Lovewell Center, which shares the Gospel with and meets the needs of people struggling with homelessness. At an additional stop, they met Steve Witt, pastor of The Well Church, which saw 650 in attendance this Easter and has had dozens of salvations and baptisms since starting just more than six years ago.
Later that evening at a celebration dinner, Ezell led a panel discussion that included Pitman, Ratner, who planted and pastors WALK church, Joseph Gibbons, church-planting missionary at Favor City Church, and Jack Diven, a church-planting resident at Favor City who plans to launch a new church in 2024. Hope Church planted WALK in 2015, which then planted Favor City, which will soon send Diven to plant a church. That will make four generations in the Hope Church lineage.
“When we arrived in Las Vegas, my wife Kristie and I said we didn’t come to start something. We were just getting in on something that God was already doing, and we were just stewarding a story for a season,” Pitman said. “And now it’s so encouraging to see guys like this and their families who are now stewarding that story of what God is doing in Las Vegas, and it is super exciting for the future.”
Pitman wants to see thousands of Southern Baptist churches that are multiplying themselves in the same way.
Also during the dinner, Ezell spotlighted the ministry of Purchased: Not For Sale, a ministry of the Hub that rescues young women out of the sex trafficking industry.
“The church was made to do this work,” Hub director Kathleen Kahl said. “It was never supposed to be the government’s job. You are equipped to do it because you have the Holy Spirit, and you are the Church.”
Damian Cirincione, executive director of the Nevada Baptist Convention, welcomed NAMB Trustees to Nevada and participated in an on-stage discussion with Ezell and Pitman about the importance of Kingdom cooperation in reaching cities like Las Vegas and states in the West.
At the full board meeting held Tuesday afternoon, Trevin Wax, NAMB’s vice president of Resources and Research, opened with a devotion based on the Beatitudes.
Trustees heard reports from committees and acted on several items:
- Trustees elected Eric Thomas, senior pastor of First Baptist Norfolk in Norfolk, Va., as chairman of the board; Jonathan Jarboe, president of the Baptist Foundation of California and a member of Pathway Church in Redland, Calif., will serve as first vice chairman; Jeff Young, executive pastor at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, will serve as second vice chairman.
- Matt Smith, NAMB’s chief financial officer, reported that revenue for the year at NAMB is running ahead of expenses. Early giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is strong.
- The Send Network committee reported that Brian Bloye, founding and senior pastor at West Ridge Church in Dallas, Ga., will serve as vice president of multiplication strategies for Send Network. Bloye will continue as pastor of West Ridge.
- Ezell recognized trustees who will conclude their terms of service in June: Andy Addis, lead pastor of Cross Point Church in Hutchinson, Kan., Erin Bounds, who has served since 2022 as chair of the Trustees, a member of North Valley Church in Odenville, Ala., Steve Hardy, a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., Alisa Henley, a member of Grace and Truth Church in Blue Springs, Mo., Bill Richard, a member of Moriarty First Baptist Church in Moriarty, N.M., Danny Ringer, a member of Elk City First Baptist Church in in Elk City, Okla., Stephen Spurgin, a member of Miamisburg First Baptist in Miamisburg, Ohio, Gary Yochum, missions coordinator at Oak Park Baptist Church in Jeffersonville, Ind., Tanya York, a member of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky. Also recognized were David Killebrew, a member of Hope Church in Las Vegas, and Willy Rice, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla., each of whom resigned from the board in 2022.
In his report to Trustees, Ezell shared examples of several creative ways churches raised funds for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering this year. He emphasized the importance of expressing thanks to all the churches and individuals who give faithfully.
In addition to celebrating 2022’s church plants and the cumulative 10,000-plus plants, Ezell updated trustees on ministry efforts from other key areas at NAMB. He concluded with words of encouragement from 1 Corinthians 16:9 where the apostle Paul says doors of opportunity are opening in Ephesus, but there are many adversaries.
“We like to talk about all the doors of opportunity and the good things that come with that, but we don’t like to talk about what often comes with them,” Ezell said. “But Paul does. And he saw the opposition as a reason to stay, not to go. Any time you are trying to accomplish something for the glory of God, and which is spirit led, you are going to encounter opposition.”
Pointing further down in the text to verses 13-14, Ezell reminded Trustees that after Paul told readers to stand firm, be courageous and strong, he said “do everything with love.”
“We have to be on guard, be watchful, don’t be naïve,” Ezell said. “But do everything with love.”