ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–North American Mission Board trustees elected a new vice president of evangelization and celebrated key achievements of 2004 — highlighted by a record number of new church starts – during their Feb. 9 meeting in Alpharetta, Ga.
Trustees also approved the appointments of 13 missionaries and 34 chaplains.
With a standing ovation, trustees unanimously elected John Avant, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga., to lead NAMB’s evangelization group.
Avant succeeds John Yarbrough, who earlier this year was named vice president of NAMB’s group responsible for the agency’s Strategic Focus Cities initiative, associational strategies and leadership development.
NAMB President Robert E. (Bob) Reccord cited Avant’s evangelistic zeal, commitment to missions and denominational leadership as qualities that will serve Southern Baptists well.
“He is one of the very few in our nation who has pastored or led through a movement of God that would be an awakening movement in North America,” Reccord said.
Avant served as pastor of Coggin Avenue Baptist Church in Brownwood, Texas, in 1995 when a January worship service launched a spiritual awakening that has became known as “the Brownwood Revival” affecting more than 100 college campuses stretching from Texas to Illinois and Alabama to Massachusetts.
“I’m extremely passionate about the evangelization of North America and a movement of God in churches across North America that would result in Southern Baptists being a lighthouse to the whole world,” Avant told trustees. “I seem to find myself feeling my greatest fulfillment when I’m doing missions and evangelism. Everything else has seemed to become secondary to me.”
Following the board’s vote, Avant challenged the trustees to intentionally build friendships with five people who are not Christians in an effort to win them for Christ.
“We don’t really have to make converts, all we have to do is make friends,” Avant suggested. “You make friends that don’t know Christ, and they’ll start becoming converts. I want to challenge you to join me in a movement of God across this convention and let it start with us. My wife and I are humbled, and we are honored, and we are blessed to join you here in what I think is the greatest work in North America.”
Avant currently serves as a member of the SBC’s Empowering Kingdom Growth Task Force and is a regular keynote speaker at evangelism conferences across the country and around the world.
A prolific author, Avant earned a doctoral degree in evangelism and a master of divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and a bachelor’s degree in religion and Greek from Baylor University in Waco. He pastored four churches in Texas before coming to New Hope in 1996.
He and his wife, Donna, have two daughters in college and one son at home.
During Reccord’s report to the trustees, he highlighted some of NAMB’s most significant accomplishments in 2004, including:
— NAMB helped start a record-high 1,781 new churches, of which 59 percent were African American or ethnic.
— More than 1 million Southern Baptists were trained and equipped to share the Gospel.
— More than 24,000 mission volunteers participated in 81 World Changers projects resulting in 1,173 professions of faith.
— A record-high 2.4 million meals were prepared through Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts during a 78-day response in the wake of four hurricanes.
— 5,126 missionaries and 2,395 chaplains served throughout North America.
In other business, trustees agreed to seek approval from the SBC Executive Committee to authorize FamilyNet to solicit financial support through its on-air programming. The recommendation states:
“That FamilyNet seek the authorization of the SBC Executive Committee to give viewers of FamilyNet an opportunity to financially support FamilyNet programs. All on-air solicitations will be done discreetly and professionally and will include a statement that such giving should never replace giving to the local church. At all times feasible (direct mail, etc.) it will be stated that FamilyNet TV is a ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention, supported in part by the Cooperative Program.”