Send North America luncheon draws 3,500

HOUSTON (BP) -- Using dots on a timeline, the North American Mission Board showcased significant moments in Southern Baptist history during the Send North America luncheon June 12 at the SBC annual meeting in Houston.

With precision video mapping and a combination of digital and physical illusion, NAMB challenged the 3,500 guests to recognize that their next steps are crucial to reaching North America for Christ.

"Why are we here?" Ezell said. "Where are we going? Send North America. It is our strategy to penetrate lostness in North America and our goal is to see 15,000 churches planted in the next 10 years."

Should the goal be met, Ezell said it would mark the greatest decade of church planting in SBC history and would be the first time in more than 100 years that the rate of church planting kept pace with the population increase.

Emphasizing the importance of significant moments in SBC history, Ezell presented Paige Patterson and Judge Paul Pressler with mementos from the platform recognizing the men's leadership in the SBC's Conservative Resurgence.

"Without the Conservative Resurgence we would not be here," Ezell said, explaining that without the call to a return to theological foundations and biblical integrity there would be no groundwork for, or momentum to sustain, Send North America.

One symptom highlighting the need for action graphically displayed in the presentation was the growing gap in SBC church-to-population ratio. In 1900, the church-to-population ratio was 1 to 3,600. That ratio almost doubled in a century, growing to 1 to 6,100 in 2000. The rate of church planting within the SBC has not maintained pace with population growth.

As the presentation concluded, a dot representing the present moment was pulled from the digital timeline and tossed into the crowd. It represented the collective moment that Send North America hopes to help Southern Baptists seize. Guests each received dots representing their next steps in partnership with Send North America.

In a final charge to the audience, Aaron Coe called for Southern Baptists to recognize their opportunity in history. Coe, vice president for mobilization and equipping with NAMB, said the moment is now.

"Will this be a forgotten moment, or a defining moment?" Coe said. "When historians look back at this time, will they see that a massive missional shift happened, or will they not look at this moment at all? The question is, Will you seize this moment?"

After the presentation, guests placed their dots on banners representing the Send North America city or region where they will partner to support church planters. Greg Jackson, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Camden, Ohio, called the presentation "awesome."

"It is a good thing to recognize people who came before us," said Jackson, who led his church to plant Hope Community Church in Dayton. "It is important to remember where we have been and to make sure younger church planters recognize the relevance and importance of what transpired to bring us to where we are."

Connie Pressley, a member of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., said her church is partnering to help church plants in Toronto and in New England.

"It was informative and inspiring," Pressley said of the presentation. "We recognize that we have to plant churches in places that do not have a Gospel presence. Where we live, you can find a church everywhere. Our hearts are broken for places that do not have churches or the opportunity to respond to the Gospel."


Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. To learn more about Send North America and partnering in church planting, visit namb.net/mobilize-me. A video of the presentation will be available in early August following the Send North America Conference, July 29-20, at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).