NAMB emphasizes importance of gospel conversations in communitiescomment (0)
June 19, 2014
North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell exhorted messengers at the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting to join in reaching communities for Christ through “gospel conversations.”
“We have much to celebrate, but there is still much to be done,” Ezell said.
Among the most pressing of tasks for Southern Baptists and evangelicals is that of individual believers living a life on mission — sharing the gospel in their communities.
Ezell said he and other Southern Baptist leaders are grieved by the number of baptisms being reported among churches in North America.
A decrease in baptisms is the impetus behind NAMB’s introduction of the “3 Circles” evangelism tool developed at First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach, Fla., led by pastor Jimmy Scroggins. Scroggins joined Ezell during the presentation to share about the simplicity of gospel conversations.
Now incorporated into a mobile app and printed and distributed as the “3 Circles: Life Conversation Guide,” NAMB’s evangelism guide offers all believers a simple and versatile tool for presenting and explaining the gospel in everyday conversation.
Ezell reported that of 943 churches started in 2010, 856 (91 percent) are still thriving. In the most recent year of reporting they baptized 3,394 people, grew in membership by 20 percent and gave $2.9 million toward missions efforts.
Diverse church plants
In 2013, Ezell said Southern Baptists added 1,105 congregations in North America, including 936 church plants — more than half of which are non-Anglo congregations.
“If we’re serious about reaching North America, we need to reflect the diversity and background of the people we hope to reach,” Ezell said as he shared NAMB’s appointment of church planting catalysts to help facilitate church planting among three of North America’s largest ethnic groups — Hispanics, Chinese and Koreans.
Among the greatest stories of people reaching their own community is that of Montreal native David Pothier at La Chapelle church, a congregation of more than 700, Ezell said. Not only did the church reach hundreds of people, but last year they baptized 100 — in a city many may consider decidedly secular.
In 2013, church planter Brad O’Brien moved to Baltimore to start Redeemer City Church, which meets in the once-thriving Lee Street Memorial Church building.
With Lee Street on the decline, lay leader Raymond Hoffman, a member of the church for 61 years, began meeting with O’Brien about bringing life to his church. Gradually the two decided to build two churches into one. Lee Street and Redeemer became Jesus Our Redeemer Church late 2013.
Emphasizing the need to revitalize churches in all the Send North America cities, Ezell said, “Only 10–15 percent of our churches are healthy, and another 70–75 percent are plateaued or declining. It’s amazing what God can do when churches are open to whatever God can bring before them.”
Jesus Our Redeemer is now thriving because of one gospel conversation at a time.
Earlier in his report Ezell paid tribute to the leaders of Baptist state conventions in the South through whose leadership church planting funds have been allocated to places such as Baltimore and other North American cities, where churches are scarce.
Ezell said a new funding model these leaders adopted will put $8 million annually into non-South regions.
In NAMB’s written report, the organization reported 92 fully funded missionary units are now under appointments. All other NAMB missionaries are funded from multiple sources or self-funded.