NAMB report features church planting, new initiative for bivocational ministers

by BSCNC Communications
Friday, June 22, 2012 | 2 yrs old

In 1900, one Southern Baptist church existed for every 3,800 people.

“But we lost ground,” said North American Mission Board president Kevin Ezell. “Now, there is one for every 6,100 people.”

Not only is the church per person ratio down, Ezell also reported that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) loses 890 churches each year.

During the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans, Ezell reported on the continued need for church planting. He said the North American Mission Board (NAMB) is praying to see 5,000 new congregations by 2022.

“We must develop leaders and church planters if we’re going to be successful,” he said.

Southern Baptists are working to impact lostness and expand God’s Kingdom through church planting. In 2011, 1,003 new churches were started and 83 churches affiliated with the SBC. Giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering was also up last year by three percent.

“Thank you for your sacrificial gifts. Every dollar you give goes to missionaries, to support them on the field,” Ezell said.

To help prepare missionaries for the field, next year NAMB will launch a new “missionary farm system.” This effort will allow potential planters to come alongside a pastor as an intern and to do an apprenticeship in the city where they feel God calling them to start a new church.

“We want to make sure we have church planters that understand the challenges and skills needed to survive in very difficult situations,” Ezell said. “We want our missionaries to develop the skills and tools they need.”

Church planting missionaries find various ways to share the gospel. During last year’s annual meeting church planter Shaun Pillay of Norwich, Conn., shared how a local barber shared the gospel with Matthew Mowrey while giving him a haircut. Pillay serves in an area that is about two percent evangelical.

Mowrey came to faith in Jesus Christ last year. His parents watched him on stage during the SBC as he talked about how Pillay and the barber helped change his life. 

This year, Ezell shared “the rest of the story” with messengers: Mowrey’s parents have also come to faith in Jesus Christ.

“We want to plant churches that will make a difference for years to come and generations to come that will continue to reach people,” Ezell said.

Ezell also brought updates on other NAMB ministry efforts. A new initiative called “Iron Men of the SBC” will aim to serve bivocational pastors. These pastors often serve small churches. About 3,700 SBC churches average less than 125 people on Sunday mornings. In some states, about half the churches are served by bivocational pastors.

John Voltaire, his wife and two young children joined Ezell on stage to share about his experience as a bivocational pastor in Miami, Fla. Voltaire is a full time engineer for an aviation company that makes black boxes. He is also the pastor of a church trying to serve a predominantly Haitian community.

“I feel like I’m called to be a church planter,” he said. “It’s hard work, but I believe it’s worth it.”

Also joining Ezell on stage was Lt. Jared Vineyard, who was serving in Iraq when a car bomb exploded within 15 feet of him. “I was the only one standing. All the guys with me were gone,” he said.

Through that experience God called Vineyard to serve Him as a U.S. Army chaplain. “It’s an honor and privilege to do it. It’s about the soldiers, being able to serve them. It’s a privilege to point them to the greatest hero – Jesus Christ.”

Doug Carver, NAMB director of chaplaincy, reported that NAMB supports 3,600 chaplains, with more than 1,400 serving in the military.

“They work in the hard places, where in many cases the churches can’t go,” he said.

NAMB also helps equip and support Southern Baptists to serve in the hard places when a disaster strikes. NAMB has 80,000 trained volunteers ready to serve, to help meet physical and spiritual needs, after a disaster. In North Carolina, North Carolina Baptist Men trains individuals for participation in disaster relief, and about 15,000 people have been trained and are ready to respond when disaster strikes.

Southern Baptists are among the top three disaster relief agencies in the United States.

NAMB also helps prepare churches for what to do during and after a disaster. Being prepared, being a “Disaster Ready Church,” helps churches be positioned to effectively reach out to the community during times of disaster.

Churches can learn more about how to get involved in disaster relief at www.namb.net/dr.

For more information about chaplaincy ministry, bivocational ministry, church planting or other NAMB efforts, visit www.namb.net.