CHICAGO (BP) – North American Mission Board trustees meeting here Oct. 3-4 celebrated a new, all-time high total for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, visited with church-planting missionaries and celebrated salvation stories that motivate NAMB’s ministry efforts.
“It’s just incredible,” Ezell told trustees and church planters at the dinner. “And I want the planters to know that there are literally tens of thousands of people that you’ve never met, and never will, that sacrificially give in a church in Murfreesboro [Tenn.], a church in Los Angeles, a church in New York, a church in Chicago, that believe in you. And they are faithful year after year.”
Looking back on more than a decade of giving, Ezell told trustees, “The Annie Armstrong Offering has grown by 27 percent since 2010. That is just an incredible testament to how much people – the Southern Baptist family – love you and what you are doing. We celebrate it, but we do so with a tremendous sense of humility and understanding that it comes from the churches.”
Throughout the two-day meeting, Ezell emphasized that above all the numbers and reports a trustee meeting requires, the top priority is to remember that NAMB’s work is about people and leading them into a relationship with Christ.
Earlier Monday trustees visited Chicago West Bible Church, planted six years ago by Jon Kelly. Today the church shares a building that is also home to Send Relief’s Chicago Ministry Center. Trustees toured the church and ministry center, including a separate building on the property that will soon provide rooming for up to 40 short-term missionaries and church mission team members as they serve at the center.
Later at dinner, Send Network President Vance Pitman led a panel discussion about the challenges and opportunities that come with church planting in Chicago, the third largest city in the United States.
Ezell also recognized Erin Bounds Monday evening, who began serving as chairwoman of the NAMB Board of Trustees in June. Bounds, a member of North Valley Baptist Church in Odenville, Ala., is the first woman to serve in that role for NAMB.
At their full board session on Tuesday, trustees received several reports and approved resolutions. Highlights included the following:
- Trustees approved a fiscal operating budget for fiscal year 2023 for $134.7 million and a capital budget of $2.9 million.
- NAMB CFO Matt Smith reported that revenue for the recently concluded fiscal year ran 9.4 percent above budget, including increases seen in both the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.
- In Evangelism, Eric Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church Norfolk, Va., who serves on the trustee evangelism committee, reported that NAMB’s evangelism team plans to introduce a new resource kit in June 2023 that will help churches build a culture of evangelism.
- Send Network committee chairman Andy Addis, pastor of Cross Point church in Hutchinson, Kan., reported that church planter assessments are up 50 percent for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) in the first full year of the Send Network SBTC partnership there.
- The Send Relief committee reported that the seventh Serve Tour of 2022 will take place in Dayton, Ohio, this weekend. To date, the Serve Tour has mobilized more than 5,000 volunteers, served 15,000 individuals and seen 350 professions of faith.
- NAMB-endorsed chaplains have recorded more than 1 million Gospel presentations since 2010. The news was reported by Tommy Mitchell, senior pastor of Agricola Baptist Church in Lucedale, Miss., who serves as chairman of NAMB’s Chaplains Commission.
In his president’s report, Ezell briefly reminded trustees of some accomplishments since 2010, including a national, unified approach on church planting strategy for Southern Baptists through Send Network and a one-stop shop for compassion ministry through Send Relief.
Ezell also shared about a church-planting missionary in Florida whose wife recently gave birth to their fourth child, a son, who was born with serious medical challenges. The missionary shared how thankful he was that he signed on to the new health benefits NAMB provides in partnership with GuideStone Financial Services for first-year church planters.
“This is a sweet couple, and their new child was just born a couple of weeks ago,” Ezell said. “I never want our meetings to be about numbers. These are real people with real needs, and you are meeting those.”
Ezell closed with a challenge to always maintain focus on what matters most.
“In all these reports and all that we do, I want to be sure we don’t forget the faces of people,” he told trustees. “Because it really is all about the gospel.”
Mike Ebert serves as executive director of public relations for the North American Mission Board.