"We have 45,000 churches, millions of Southern Baptists, and we have 600 student missionaries. That is unspeakably poor. We must do better," Ezell told the 57-member board. "Missionaries don't just happen. We must intentionally pray for and build the next generation of missionaries."
Citing an SBC church death rate of about 900 churches a year after NAMB's regional vice presidents reviewed North America's staggering lostness, Ezell set forth NAMB's missionary development process, which he refers to as a "Farm System."
The four-tiered process will allow for multiple age groups and levels of commitment. Training centers, established in conjunction with local churches, will be geared toward providing hands-on training while helping individuals discern their level of commitment and calling.
"Student Missionaries," serving terms of a few weeks up to a year, will explore their ministry calling while serving in a church or other ministry setting. Similarly, a missionary "Intern" role provides aspiring church planters with hands-on experience in a church context under the guidance of a pastor or church planter. A church planter "Apprentice" role allows men called to church planting to move to their particular ministry context and serve with an existing church plant as they begin building a core team. This role would develop into a church start, with a Church Planter serving at a strategic location in the same area.
Individuals in the Farm System would primarily be placed in regions outside the South, with an emphasis on the 30 cities that are part of NAMB's Send North America initiative.
Trustees saw firsthand the impact of such mentorship opportunities Oct. 8 as they met with Chicago church planters who were themselves building churches in the inner city while mentoring younger planters for the purpose of multiplication.
"Thank you for your faithfulness and your investment in this generation and next," Ezell told NAMB's trustees. "And in all that God is going to do."
Trustees approved utilizing $1 million in underspends from NAMB's recently completed budget year to help SBC church plants in North America engage unreached people groups internationally. Up to $1,500 will be available to allow a planter and another church member to make a personal visit to an unreached people group through an International Mission Board vision trip.
Trustees also heard how NAMB has increased efforts to care for church planters through its Church Planter Care Network, which is designed to build greater community among SBC church planters.
Trustees approved the transition of Steve Davis as Midwest regional vice president to the position of regional vice president for the South region. Walter Mickels, associate vice president to the south, now will serve multiple regions. Ezell said he plans to present a new Midwest regional vice president to trustees during their February meeting.
Ezell said Al Gilbert, NAMB's Love Loud executive director, now is serving as interim vice president of evangelism.
Other meeting highlights:
-- NAMB chief financial officer Carlos Ferrer reported that Cooperative Program receipts to NAMB are 4.17 percent above budget for 2012 and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering gifts are 3.3 above budget.
-- Douglas Carver, executive director of chaplaincy, reported that NAMB-endorsed chaplains recorded 12,160 professions of faith in first six months of 2012 -- already more than all of entire year in 2011.
-- Trustees approved the establishment of NAMB Canada, which will allow NAMB to more effectively conduct ministry in Canada through its Send North America efforts. The process for establishing NAMB Canada next moves to the SBC Executive Committee for approval.
-- Trustees approved a pastor advisory board that will serve to inform NAMB leadership of the needs and opinions of pastors. "Churches plant churches and pastors lead churches," Ezell said. "We need to keep our ear to the ground to listen to pastors' concerns and what's on their hearts as we attempt to plant churches all over North America."
-- In addition to underspends being used for the unreached people groups initiative, NAMB also will fund an educational scholarship for bivocational pastors and planters through NAMB's Iron Men of the SBC initiative and an "Extreme Church Makeover" initiative connected to NAMB's church revitalization efforts.
Trustee chairman Doug Dieterly, in closing remarks at the meeting, reflected on challenges in NAMB's past and celebrated current successes.
"One question that has been asked is, 'Is it really possible to turn the battleship,'" Dieterly said. "Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know about you but I think this battleship has not only been turned but it has been reinvented and it is steaming full-speed ahead.
"This is becoming something that some doubted it would ever be, and that is in my judgment the premier missions church planting agency in North America and we praise God for that," Dieterly said.
Adam Miller is a writer for the North American Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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