By Mike Ebert
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (BP) – North American Mission Board (NAMB) trustees meeting in South Florida this week saw first-hand the impact a sending church can have on its community. They also heard a challenge to be personally involved in NAMB's new "Who's Your One?" evangelism initiative.
"Could I ask each one of you as pastors and church members to start praying right now about your one?" Johnny Hunt asked at dinner Monday evening (Feb. 4). "If we are going to turn around evangelism trends in the SBC, I believe it is going to happen one person at a time."
Hunt serves as NAMB's senior vice president of evangelism and leadership. The trustee gathering took place Feb. 4-5 in West Palm Beach, Florida, with an emphasis on the Gospel need and ministry that is taking place across south Florida.
After dinner, trustees loaded onto buses and traveled to Family Church to hear how the congregation is identifying and training leaders to plant and pastor new churches throughout south Florida.
South Florida's diversity, unceasing growth, great wealth and extreme poverty can all be a challenge for churches trying to connect with the more than 6 million residents in the region. Dozens of legacy churches are struggling or have shut their doors.
Family Church has confronted this challenge with a goal of planting 100 neighborhood-focused churches in south Florida. To do that they have partnered with NAMB to start a leadership pipeline residency program that began with seven students in 2014 and has now seen 105 graduates complete the two-year program.
Trustees met Sal Cavarretta, who planted a church in Boca Raton in November 2017, and Kostiantyn Goncharov, who is planting a Russian speaking church to reach the nearly 400,000 Russian speaking residents of the area.
At another stop, trustees heard the story of how a dying church – Jog Road Baptist – partnered with Family Church to transition their building to a Spanish-speaking congregation that is now thriving and strongly rooted in its surrounding neighborhood.
The next morning trustees heard more about church replanting efforts from Mark Clifton, NAMB's national director for church replanting.
"Seventy-seven percent of churches in the SBC that close each year are located in cities with over 100,000 people," Clifton reported. "We're closing churches where we desperately need churches."
Clifton's "Revitalize" podcast hosted with LifeWay president Thom Rainer has had more than 250,000 downloads. An upcoming NAMB replant certification workshop for Associational Mission Strategists is sold out with 250 attending, and an upcoming "Am I A Replanter?" workshop has 100 attending. Currently at least 200 Southern Baptist churches are walking through the replanting process.
During their Feb. 5 plenary meeting, trustees heard several reports:
– NAMB Chief Financial Officer Matt Smith reported that NAMB's fiscal year spending to date is 7.7 percent below budget and that offering income from both the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering are at anticipated levels for this time of year.
– Andy Addis, pastor of Cross Point Church in Hutchinson, Kansas, and chairman of the Send Network committee, reported that Send Network's Leadership Pipeline has grown from 237 churches in early 2018 to 750 today, with 216 of those churches actively implementing the process and 660 individuals participating.
– Erin Bounds, chairwoman of NAMB's Financial Services Committee, and a member of North Valley Baptist Church in Odenville, Alabama, reported that NAMB's annual end of year audit conducted by an outside auditing firm resulted in "a completely clean audit. The highest rating you can get," Bounds said.
– Trustees voted to defer a final recommendation on a motion from the 2017 SBC Annual Meeting until they have more time to finalize a response. The motion asked NAMB to alter its guidelines for representation on the NAMB Board of Trustees.
In his report to trustees, NAMB president Kevin Ezell started by stating, "Everything we do at NAMB is about sending the hope of the Gospel."
On church planting, Ezell reminded trustees that NAMB is involved in church planting everywhere across North America.
"Over 60 percent of the churches we helped Southern Baptists plant in 2018 were non-Anglo," Ezell reported. "We plant churches everywhere, for everyone."
Ezell spotlighted NAMB's recently renewed efforts in Pittsburgh. He introduced Rob Wilton who now serves as Send Missionary to the city and will be starting a church this fall in its West Hills area.
"Just last month his church sent a $30,000 check for the Cooperative Program to the Penn-South Jersey state convention," Ezell said. "That makes his church one of the top five Cooperative Program giving churches in his state convention. And he doesn't launch until October.
"So often," Ezell said, "people talk about church plants in terms of what they get, and they don't realize what they are giving, and that's what's so exciting."
Wilton shared a map showing one existing and four proposed Multiplying Churches that will each plant at least five churches in greater Pittsburgh over the next several years.
"We are dreaming big in Pittsburgh," Wilton said. "I believe this is just the beginning."
Ezell also highlighted the upcoming "Who's Your One?" evangelism campaign NAMB is implementing with current SBC president J.D. Greear as well as the "GO2" initiative, which challenges college students to commit their first two years after school to getting a job near a church plant that they can help get established in North America or abroad.
Information on both initiatives and others can be found at gospelaboveall.com.
NAMB's next trustee meeting is scheduled for May 21 in Alpharetta, Georgia.
Mike Ebert serves as NAMB's executive director of public relations.
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