Ezell also told trustees of NAMB's transition to a new funding model with southern state conventions that will yield more funding for key church planting initiatives across the country.
Ezell's comments came at the close of a three-day meeting when NAMB's trustees gathered for the first time in Canada. Trustees visited church plant sites throughout Toronto to meet church planters who shared the challenges of ministering in one of the world's most culturally diverse cities, where half of all residents are foreign-born. But trustees also heard how God is moving in the hearts of Toronto residents.
Matt Hess, who relocated to Toronto 15 months ago to start a church, shared the story of a young woman who began attending the small group gatherings leading up to his church launch and recently gave her life to Christ. Earlier in the week a planter from Montreal reported 40 baptisms on a recent Sunday in the months-old church there.
"We could not do what the King of Kings has called us to do if it was not for the North American Mission Board," Hess told trustees. "Thank you for the resources. Thank you for the prayers. And please keep it up."
Jeff Christopherson, NAMB's vice president for the Canada Region and U.S. Northeast Region, expressed gratitude at a Canada Celebration dinner prior to the Oct. 9 trustee meeting that NAMB has tripled the resources coming into the nation since 2010.
"We are so thankful as Canadians that you have turned your attention to this country," Christopherson told trustees. "The fact that you are here today means so much."
Trustees heard reports from NAMB's other four regions as well. Also at the meeting:
-- Trustees approved a title change for Carlos Ferrer, who is now executive vice president/chief financial officer. Ferrer reported that NAMB's fiscal year-to-date revenue at the end of August was $109 million with expenses of $99 million. Cooperative Program revenue at the end of September had totaled $42.9 million and gifts to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions totaled $56.9 million.
-- NAMB-endorsed chaplains have shared Christ 31,000 times so far in 2013, with 7,238 professions of faith and 1,065 baptisms, trustees were told. Doug Carver, NAMB's executive director for chaplaincy, reported that response has been mostly positive to new guidelines NAMB issued to chaplains regarding same-gender marriage ceremonies in the military. Carver said he anticipates continuing challenges for SBC military chaplains and asked for continued prayer.
-- Al Gilbert, NAMB's vice president for evangelism, reported how the six teams he oversees are serving in contexts throughout North America. Among them: NAMB is gearing up for the 2014 "GPS: God's Plan for Sharing" emphasis on servant evangelism. In addition, Gilbert announced the development of an online presence for churches to post the various ministry evangelism programs they have and how they might be willing to coach others in developing similar ministries.
-- Micah Millican, NAMB's director for church planter relations, reported that 1,500 church planters are now part of NAMB's Send North America Network planter care ministry. NAMB has established locally led planter support teams in each of its 32 Send North America cities that hold three gatherings each year to encourage and support church planters and their families. For the second year in a row NAMB is depositing $1,000 into the Guidestone Financial Resources retirement accounts for each church planter in its care network. Additionally, in November, NAMB will provide each planter with an online Bible library.
'An historic time'
Ezell, in his address to trustees, announced a new funding model between NAMB and South Region state conventions. The traditional cooperative budget agreement between NAMB and each South Region convention is transitioning to a grant system that is simpler, leaves more spending decisions to the states and will no longer include personnel.
With savings from the transition, Ezell said NAMB will be able to double church planting funds in 2015 in states such as Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. The shift of funds from South to non-South regions also will allow NAMB to invest $1 million over four years for new churches in the Interstate 29 corridor stretching from the Dakotas to Kansas City. The funding shift also will provide an additional 15 church planting catalysts throughout North America.
Ezell announced plans for three new national church planting catalysts (CPCs)):
-- national CPC for deaf churches to focus on starting 100 new churches for the deaf in the next 10 years.
-- national CPC for military churches. Southern Baptists must be intentional about making certain that a church is located by every military base, Ezell said, noting that 80 percent of military members live off base.
-- national CPC for missional communities (final title not yet determined) to focus on forming cell groups or missional communities in Send North America cities with the goal of eventually yielding new church plants.
"The best is yet to be," Ezell told trustees. "I want to encourage you -- do not stand and glare at the past or even pause too much to ponder the present, because there is a great deal to be done. We are not near where we need to be. But I am thankful for the opportunity before us and thankful that Southern Baptists have sacrificially given through the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. I am so thankful for the sacrificial gifts of Southern Baptists so we can do what we do."
Ezell ended his remarks by asking trustee Blake Gideon, pastor of First Baptist Church in Inola, Okla., to close by praying Luke 10:2, that God would send more laborers to the harvest field.
Mike Ebert writes 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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