ANAHEIM, Calif. – During its presentation to the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Anaheim Tuesday morning, June 14, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) highlighted Send Relief, thanked Southern Baptists for their support and encouraged churches to engage in Send Relief ministry opportunities through the Serve Tour.
“We have the opportunity, joining together with the IMB [International Mission Board] and NAMB, to do Send Relief ministry literally every day of the year all over North America and the world,” said NAMB president Kevin Ezell. “The beauty of it is the partnership.”
NAMB and IMB began partnering in early 2020 to provide a single compassion ministry for Southern Baptists. Bryant Wright, president of Send Relief, joined IMB president Paul Chitwood and Ezell on stage for the presentation.
“Send Relief is the compassion ministry arm of Southern Baptists,” Chitwood said. “It is a unique partnership between NAMB and the IMB. It’s your compassion ministry at work in North America and to the ends of the earth.”
Ezell announced the upcoming dates of three new Send Conferences that will be jointly hosted between NAMB and IMB, stating that the conferences have been excellent opportunities to discover, inspire and mobilize believers to answer the call to missions.
Together, the three men also highlighted the significant compassion ministry work taking place in North America and the world through Send Relief, specifically highlighting disaster relief efforts in Mayfield, Ky., and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.
“What we saw was like an atomic bomb had been dropped on the city of Mayfield when we were there,” Wright said of the EF4 tornado that tore through Mayfield and Western Kentucky December 10, 2021, claiming 57 lives and leaving a miles-long trail of damage in its wake.
“What was so exciting was to see those yellow shirts [of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers] all throughout the fields surrounding the area of Mayfield as we were arriving there soon after the storm,” said Wright. “That happens time and time again during crisis.”
Chitwood then described the refugee crisis in Ukraine that he witnessed during multiple trips to Eastern Europe. Because of the IMB’s ongoing mission and church planting work in the region, Baptists were well positioned to respond as the war displaced millions of people. Chitwood thanked the hundreds of SBDR volunteers who sacrificed to make the trip and praised Southern Baptists for raising more than $11.5 million to support compassion ministry efforts there.
Chitwood then introduced international Send Relief vice president, Jason Cox, and national Send Relief vice president, Josh Benton, who closed the presentation in prayer.
Evangelism results announced during Crossover Report
Preceding NAMB’s Send Relief presentation, Ezell welcomed California Southern Baptist Convention executive director Pete Ramirez to join him for the Anaheim Crossover Report to underscore the importance of local partners and cooperation in during Crossover.
“We have seen God move through students, through churches, during this time,” Ramirez said of the annual evangelistic outreach that leads up to the SBC Annual Meeting each year in the host city. “I can’t thank enough those who were part of this whole experience.”
Ramirez introduced his state director of evangelism Jason Blankenship, associational mission strategist Victory Chayasirisobhon and pastor Josh Sanchez before announcing the results from Crossover. The event drew 572 volunteers, served more than 2,400 kids and their families and witnessed 547 people make professions of faith.
NAMB highlights Gospel-focused ministry to North America in report
“At NAMB, it’s all about the Gospel,” Ezell said late Tuesday afternoon at the start of NAMB’s report to messengers. “Whether it’s through church planting, compassion ministry or evangelism resources and training – our mission is to make Jesus known across North America. That’s why we exist, and we only exist because of your generosity.”
Messengers applauded and cheered when Ezell shared about the historic 2021 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering of $66.5 million, which surpassed the previous record by $5 million dollars. Since 2010, receipts to the offering have grown by 22 percent and set a record four of the last five years.
Those offerings represent a “growing commitment among Southern Baptists to invest in the work being done because you see the fruit of the labor,” Ezell said before thanking Southern Baptists for their faithful giving.
“It is only because you give that we are able to do what we do,” Ezell said. “Your giving allows our missionaries and chaplains to share the Gospel on the front lines.” Repeating the “Because you give” refrain, Ezell shared several ministry highlights Southern Baptist giving enables.
NAMB supports 3,720 chaplains who serve members of the U.S. Armed Services around the world in dangerous places and in various institutional settings.
Ezell then highlighted NAMB’s emphasis on supporting churches in their evangelism efforts and announced Tim Dowdy, longtime pastor south of Atlanta, as the new executive director of evangelism following the resignation of NAMB’s former vice president in evangelism.
Dowdy briefly presented his own testimony of being led to faith as an 11-year-old by a teenager who had been equipped by a Southern Baptist church to evangelize and described leading NAMB’s evangelism department as coming full circle.
“It’s going to take all of us working together diligently, day in and day out, faithfully sharing the Good News of the Gospel to change the world,” Dowdy said. “Our aim is to help our family of churches share the Gospel everywhere with everyone until the whole world hears.”
Ezell then discussed Send Relief and their 19 ministry centers that have been established across the United States. Those centers are places that invest in the local communities where they are located and provide opportunities for Southern Baptists for mission trips and to learn about how to practice evangelistic, compassion ministry in their own neighborhoods.
Southern Baptists have planted more than 9,400 churches since 2010, Ezell said. As a sample of the work that has been done over the last 11 years, Ezell displayed maps that portrayed the number of church plants that have been launched over the last 11 years in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles.
Vance Pitman, president of NAMB’s church planting arm – Send Network – offered his vision for church planting after coming onboard as president in early 2022.
“I believe, in order to accomplish the Great Commission, we must be about planting new churches,” Pitman said. “The Great Commission is about making disciples. When we make disciples, churches are born, and as we birth churches, we join in God’s activity of expanding His kingdom in cities and nations all over the world. I believe the greatest days for us in planting new churches are in front of us.”
Ezell received a question following his report from Greg Davidson, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Vacaville, Calif., about NAMB’s decision 11 years ago to cease funding of local associations outside the southern United States.
In responding to Davidson’s question, Ezell referred to their friendship and private conversations on the subject.
“We are very grateful for associations,” Ezell said. “We have some incredibly amazing, strategic leaders in [associational mission strategist] positions all across North America. But at the North American Mission Board, we do not feel like it is the most strategic thing to do with our funds to fund those positions.
“If churches want an association, then churches should go together when they can afford that and do that. What we’ve found in states in the West and in the Midwest and the Northeast is associations are combining to be more strategic.”
Before taking questions, Ezell concluded his report by thanking pastors on behalf of NAMB for the privilege to serve them as they lead their local churches.
“Thank you for all you are doing to take the Gospel to North America and beyond,” he said. “Together, we are truly having a kingdom impact.”