El Paso: The trustees of the North American Mission Board elected Kevin Ezell, pastor of Highview Baptist Church of Louisville to be its new leader. Ezell brings to the job an incredible record of leadership and innovation. However, after his nomination many found fault with the giving record of his church to the Cooperative Program and to the Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions.
In days gone by, those marks would be the benchmarks of record to determine a church’s priorities and passion for missions, but we live in a new, much more complex day. In defense against his critics and more importantly the critics of his church Ezell in a published report shared the following facts:
Highview’s “Million to Missions” campaign sets aside $582,000 for local missions, including $145,000 for a mentoring/intern program at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and $340,000 for campus ministry at nearby colleges and universities.
Nearly half of $150,000 for national causes goes to church plants in New York City, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Atlanta, Indianapolis and Boise, Idaho. Another $24,000 is set aside for mission trip supplements and $25,000 for a student mission trip, compared to $10,000 for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering that supports work of the NAMB.
International giving of $700,000 includes $400,000 in Cooperative Program and $100,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering that supports work of the SBC International Mission Board. Other funds include $100,000 in mission-trip supplements, $5,000 for a missionary house and $10,000 for an international adoption ministry.
As you can see from this glimpse into Highview’s world of missions, Ezell led his church to be hands on in ministry and to be very intentional in the use of their mission dollars. Without doubt these qualities played a significant role in his selection as the new NAMB president.
As Ezell enters his new world as a denominational leader he must face the fact that fewer and fewer churches are giving to missions and to the Cooperative Program as they had in years past. More and more churches of all sizes are tackling the call to the Great Commission by going themselves and keeping the money under local control. Since this is a pattern Ezell followed, he is in position to find ways for NAMB to capture the imagination and commitment of these churches and to call them to sacrificial giving to NAMB and its work.
The future of NAMB and other denominational entities rests in their ability to create new partnerships and networks with churches and creative dynamic leaders. Using old benchmarks of loyalty will not restore what has been lost. SBC leaders must grapple with the fact we are doing Kingdom in a new world with new paradigms. We sail together into a “sea change” that has called into question the traditional methods of missionary support.
As a leader in the BGCT, and as a pastor of a church on the cutting edge of missions, I feel the pressure, and wish I had the answers we need for tomorrow. Personally I am more inclined to hold to the old patterns, but I realize I am a dying bred. The future will not be captured by looking backwards to our glory days, but rather living with abandonment and creativity as we engage the future.
God has placed Kevin Ezell in a position to help us claim tomorrow. I pray he will bring the same creativity and passion to his role as NAMB president as he did to leading Highview to be beacon of light and hope to the city of Louisville.