[SLIDESHOW=39605,39606,39607]LAS VEGAS (BP) — Trustees of the North American Mission Board visited with Las Vegas church planting missionaries, celebrated the birth of new churches and learned of the unique evangelistic challenges as part of their Feb. 3 meeting in Nevada.

The 56-member board gained insight into one of the key cities in NAMB’s Send North America strategy to increase the number of Southern Baptist church plants throughout North America — especially in and around large metro areas where more than 80 percent of the population lives.

Mike Rochelle, pastor of Shadow Hills church in Las Vegas, started the Feb. 3 trustee meeting with a devotion. His church has planted several churches throughout the city over the years and currently is funding three plants. Rochelle told trustees of the cultural and spiritual realities in Las Vegas.

“This is who we are,” Rochelle said. “There is not a church on every corner here. We need more churches. We don’t have all of the resources. But we have heart. We have an excitement in this valley that I have not seen in 29 years. I appreciate the financial support. But more than that, I appreciate the strength that we have in our unity and in our cooperation.”

Trustees heard reports or took action on the following:

— NAMB controller Kenneth Tan reported that fiscal year-to-date giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is up 3.2 percent compared to the same time last year. Cooperative Program income to NAMB is up 1 percent for that same time period.

— Trustees approved new responsibilities for two of NAMB’s vice presidents. Jeff Christopherson will lead the new Send City Networks team in addition to continuing to head up NAMB work in Canada. Steve Davis will oversee NAMB efforts in the Northeast and continue to do the same in the South region.

— Trustees approved NAMB’s annual audit conducted by Batts Morrison Wales & Lee. The mission board received the highest rating possible from the independent auditors. Trustees also approved updates to NAMB’s “whistle blower” policy, which protects employees who report concerns within the organization.

— Trustees approved a response to a motion from the 2014 SBC annual meeting relating to church revitalization. “The North American Mission Board (NAMB) shares the concern of many church leaders that many of Southern Baptist congregations may be categorized as plateaued or declining and an urgent need exists to see churches gain a fervor for impacting their communities with the Gospel,” NAMB’s response begins. “NAMB recognized this need and included an objective, ‘decrease the death rate,’ as a primary part of the Send North America strategy.” The response goes on to outline how NAMB is addressing the issue.

Aaron Coe, NAMB’s mobilization and marketing vice president, reported that registration for the national Send North America Conference already stands at more than 7,500 paid attendees –- nearly double the number who attended NAMB’s 2013 conference. The event is slated for Aug. 3-4 in Nashville.

After the trustee meeting, Coe shared with staff that he will be leaving NAMB at the end of February to pursue his desire to mobilize evangelical churches across denominational lines to plant churches. NAMB President Kevin Ezell said Coe will have a short-term contract to continue leading plans for the Send North America Conference.

Ezell, in his report to trustees, noted that NAMB is working with new International Mission Board President David Platt to create alignment in messaging and in some functions.

“Although we are very separate entities and we are going to remain that way, we are going to work to align ourselves in the most strategic way possible to better serve pastors and ultimately the Southern Baptist Convention,” Ezell said.

NAMB has offered free office space in its Alpharetta building for any staff that IMB might wish to locate there. In addition, NAMB and IMB will share exhibit space at the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Columbus as well as participate in a joint luncheon for pastors and a “Sending Celebration” for missionaries during the presentation time for the two entities. Half of the content of the summer edition of NAMB’s On Mission magazine, he added, will consist of content from the IMB.

Ezell also shared a plan for taking church planting efforts in NAMB Send North America cities to a higher level, starting with better recruitment and equipping of church planters.

“We have to have the best assessments. We have to have the best training. We have to have the best coaching and the best partnerships,” Ezell said. Every Send city church planter will attend a three-day orientation with NAMB for training in key church ministry areas — especially in sharing the Gospel and understanding of the Cooperative Program and ministry partnerships. Each planter also will be assigned a coach.

“We still plant all over North America — even outside the cities,” Ezell told trustees. He explained that in 10 years he wants to look back and see that among new church plants in each Send North America city, at least one each year develops into an “anchor” church that is growing and multiplying by planting churches of its own.

“If that had happened 10 years ago we would have 10 very strong churches in Denver, 10 very strong churches in Seattle — new churches. We would have 320 incredible new churches in 10 years. That’s a minimum.”

Ezell noted, “We are taking this to another level. I am thankful for NAMB phase one, but we have entered NAMB phase two.”

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  • Mike Ebert