Kevin Ezell issued a call to Southern Baptist churches to come alongside church planters in North America in a way that will encourage, strengthen, and provide accountability as they seek to take the Gospel to under-reached areas.
“Every church regardless of size can be a Sending Church. It has everything to do with engagement,” said Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board. “It is not based on how much money you contribute.”
Only about five hundred of the current church planters in NAMB’s network have a Sending Church, which serves as a lead partner with a church plant, often coordinating the involvement of additional partner churches.
Part of what keeps the number of Sending Churches low, Ezell said, is the misconception that a sending church must be able to put a lot of money into a church plant.
Ezell made his remarks to NAMB trustees and state Baptist paper editors, who had been invited to participate in the Send Boston vision trip that coincided with the October 8 trustee meeting in Boston.
Ezell said NAMB is stepping up efforts to discover, develop, and deploy churches willing to take on a Sending Church role, toward a goal of every Southern Baptist church plant having a Sending Church partner.
A Sending Church works in a mentoring role with a new church plant until the plant is self-sustaining, self-governing, and self-propagating. Ezell led NAMB to develop the concept as part of the SBC entity’s aggressive strategy to plant new churches throughout North America.
Southern Baptist churches that embrace church planting often increase their giving to the Cooperative Program, Ezell said, countering arguments that if churches increase their involvement with church plants it will negatively impact contributions to SBC causes.
“Some have said that the more you are engaged in church planting or hands-on missions when you are connecting specifically to a missionary, that would decrease the amount of your Cooperative Program giving or your Annie [Armstrong Easter Offering] giving,” Ezell said.
NAMB’s research indicates just the opposite is true, he said.
A recent analysis looked at the CP giving of NAMB-associated Sending Churches in 2010 (before they became Sending Churches) and compared it to the most recent year’s giving reports.
“Of all the Sending Churches we had last year, they gave $1 million more to the Cooperative Program,” Ezell said. “With Annie Armstrong, the sending churches gave $400,000 more.
“Greater involvement leads to greater commitment,” he told the two groups.
Ezell cautioned that not all churches demonstrated the same level of commitment but, as a group, the increase in giving was well-documented.
“We are finding an uptick in giving levels through [CP and the Annie Armstrong Offering], not a downturn that many predicted,” he stated.
“We believe it is more of an argument to get people to engage in church planting than to encourage them not to,” Ezell said.
Compiled from reports in Baptist Press by Mike Ebert, NAMB’s executive director of public relations, and the Christian Index, the state paper of the Georgia Baptist Convention, by Joe Westbury, managing editor.