ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — When evangelical pastors from Germany visited the North American Mission Board two years ago to tour the facility and learn more about how the entity helps church planters, they left with great appreciation for the effectiveness and commitment of Southern Baptists. They also left asking if they could use NAMB training materials with church planters in their own nation.
“We are blessed to have training material that has been developed by some of the best church planting practitioners in the world,” said NAMB president Kevin Ezell. “So naturally we often receive requests from other denominations and even from evangelicals in other nations who would like to use our resources.”
Now such sharing will be possible through the Send Institute, a “think tank” that will house the best practices NAMB uses in church planting and share those practices with like-minded evangelicals who are also planting churches.
The institute will be a partnership between NAMB and the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism (BGCE) at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., outside of Chicago.
“This will give us an opportunity to share with others what we are learning in areas like church planter assessments, coaching, financial planning and church plant viability,” said Jeff Christopherson, vice president of Send Network, NAMB’s church planting ministry. “It is a kingdom-minded vision focused on Gospel expansion. It will also be a way for the Send Network to interface with other groups to stay on the cutting edge of effectiveness in a rapidly changing world.”
Ed Stetzer, executive director of the BGCE, said the project will operate as a two-way street.
“I’m excited to work with NAMB to help share best practices on church planting, both from NAMB to other evangelical groups and from other evangelical groups to NAMB,” Stetzer said. “I hope the Send Institute will become a hub of the best thinking, research and idea exchanges leading to more effective church planting and evangelism.”
Both Christopherson and Stetzer will serve as co-executive directors of the institute, which will host learning symposiums both in Alpharetta and at Wheaton.
Establishing the institute allows NAMB to share resources outside the Southern Baptist Convention in a way that allows it to stay completely focused on serving Southern Baptists and starting new Southern Baptist churches.
“We want to be kingdom minded, but our focus and our top priority is serving Southern Baptists and planting Southern Baptist churches,” Christopherson said. “The Send Institute will help us to do both well.”
Christopherson and Stetzer will collaborate on placing a director of the Send Institute in the Billy Graham Center on Wheaton’s campus. Other than committing one to-be-hired church planting leader, NAMB does not anticipate any expenses to be associated with the institute. The cost of any materials distributed will be forwarded to those receiving them.