BOSTON — During their spring meeting May 3-4, North American Mission Board (NAMB) trustees celebrated area church planters and unanimously passed a resolution asking the Southern Baptist Convention to assign to NAMB the ministry assignment for reaching and mobilizing college and university students in North America.
Prior to the full board meeting, NAMB trustees spent Monday (May 3) at several locations visiting church planters and hearing stories of how God is working through Southern Baptists to start new churches and reach people for Christ in the Greater Boston area.
“This is the city that was meant to be the city on the hill,” church planting missionary Chris Causey told trustees. “A city whose light would shine bright. A light that was Christ. Now it is a city where the name of Christ is all but forgotten. He is written on walls and halls, but He is not in the hearts of the people.”
Recalling remarkable spiritual awakenings in the days of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, Causey said, “I can tell you story after story of what God has done in this city in periods of time that were darker times than what we are living in now. But we are in one of the most exciting time periods to be a Christian in this city now because our God’s encore is always better than what He has done before.”
At one stop in their tour, trustees met four church planters that have all come out of Life Community Church just outside Boston in Quincy. One of those, lifelong resident Derek Mazuch, came to faith in Christ at the church and is currently apprenticing with plans to launch a new congregation in the near future.
“When I started, all the church planters in Boston could fit around a table,” said Aaron Cavin, who planted Life Community Church in 2008. “Today we fill an entire room.” Cavin also serves as NAMB’s Boston Send City Missionary.
Several Boston-area church planters and their wives attended a celebration dinner with NAMB trustees Monday evening. During the dinner, NAMB president Kevin Ezell recognized past trustee chairmen and trustees who built the foundations that have allowed such explosive expansion in areas like Boston.
“We would not be here if it weren’t for the sturdiness and commitment of our trustees and past chairmen,” Ezell said. “Your time is well invested.”
NAMB’s request for the new collegiate ministry assignment will be referred to the SBC Executive Committee for consideration prior to the Annual Meeting. Pending approval by the EC, and pending approval of the amendments to Lifeway’s ministry assignments by the messengers at the Annual Meeting, which will be held June 15-16 in Nashville, messengers will be asked to approve this change to the NAMB ministry assignment as well.
In additional trustee business:
- NAMB trustees elected new officers. Eric J. Thomas was elected chairman. Thomas serves as senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Norfolk, Va. William E. (Willy) Rice was elected first vice chairman. Rice pastors Calvary church in Clearwater, Fla. Jonathan Jarboe, a member of Pathway Church in Redland, Calif., will serve as second vice chairman.
- Trustees recognized several members whose terms are ending in June: Andy Childs, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist church in Toccoa, Ga.; Daniel W. (Danny) de Armas, senior associate pastor of First Baptist Orlando, Fla.; Bill Ingram, student pastor, Mississippi Avenue Baptist Church, Aurora, Colo. and Scott Leachman, a member of First Baptist Church in Ruston, La.
- Trustees approved an annual financial report sent to the Woman’s Missionary Union accounting for how funds from the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® are spent.
- Matt Smith, NAMB’s chief financial officer, reported that both Cooperative Program and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering receipts are running strong so far this year with spending below last year’s pace.
- Trustees affirmed a job title change for Dhati Lewis, who leads NAMB’s church planting efforts. Formerly vice president of Send Network, Lewis’ title is now president of Send Network.
In his president’s address to trustees, Ezell shared a map of North America with dots representing active church plants in 2010 compared to a map of 2020 showing the 8,200 new church plants that have been added since.
“That’s the difference 10 years can make,” Ezell said. “And it makes it all worthwhile.
Ezell outlined plans for a new group at NAMB that will focus on producing resources and research in support of key ministry areas—evangelism, church planting and compassion ministry.
Ezell also shared that Southern Baptist church plant numbers increased in 2020.
“We are very thankful and excited about the fact that there were 588 new church plants last year in a pandemic,” Ezell said. “I never dreamed that number would start with a five. To be at 588 is just an absolute miracle. When they are telling you not to gather and to distance, those are not words you want to hear when you are trying to plant churches. We exceeded last year’s plant number.”
Shifting his focus to the future, Ezell said while he is grateful for the accomplishments of the last 10 years, the challenge is to take that momentum and shift it into a movement.
“A movement, by definition, is something that you cannot control,” Ezell said. “As Southern Baptists we have a tendency to want to control and keep it all real tidy. It’s not. The more you move from momentum to a movement, the messier it is.
“We will never compromise the word of God, and we will stay very focused theologically, but we are going to be headstrong evangelistically to multiply everything you have just seen here this week in Boston.”