Ezell: SBC needs a 'Gospel Conversation Resurgence'

PHOENIX (BP) -- Pledging "NAMB will do its part," North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell said the SBC needs a "Gospel Conversation Resurgence" if declining baptism numbers are to turn around.

North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell delivers the NAMB report June 14 on the last day of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center. He reported 732 new churches were planted and 232 existing churches began cooperating with the SBC in 2016.
Photo by Matt Jones
"If one member from each of our 47,000 churches shares the Gospel each day, it would result in over 17 million Gospel conversations in a year," Ezell told messengers at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix. "Can you imagine what would happen if Southern Baptists had that many Gospel conversations?"

Ezell shared how the Send Conference, co-presented by NAMB and the International Mission Board, challenges and equips believers to be on mission to share Jesus in everyday life. More than 8,000 have attended the conferences this year with another scheduled for late July in Orlando, Fla.

In addition, NAMB's Three Circles Life Conversation Guide has more than 2 million copies in circulation and the phone app has been downloaded more than 93,000 times.

Shifting to how NAMB missionaries are evangelizing North America, Ezell shared that Dan Coleman, church planting missionary in Augusta, Maine, has averaged 100 baptisms annually since his church was planted. La Chapelle, a church plant in Montreal, has baptized more than 450. And near Phoenix, Heart Cry Gathering has baptized 27 since its launch last year with 14 of those coming from Mormon backgrounds.

"Church planting is evangelism," Ezell said. Citing an analysis of the SBC's Annual Church Profile (ACP) from 2015, Ezell said church plants baptize a new believer for every 10 worship attendees. That's 74 percent better than in established churches, where the ratio is one baptism for every 17.4 worship attendees.

In 2016, Ezell said Southern Baptists started 732 new churches in North America with 232 new affiliations for a total of 964 new congregations.

"We need to be planting more," he said. "But our biggest challenge is finding workers for the harvest field."

Still, the impact of new churches in areas outside the South has been significant, even in a relatively short amount of time.

Ezell shared that churches planted since 2010 accounted for more that 25 percent or more of all baptisms in the Maryland-Delaware, Northwest and New York state Baptist conventions, according to an analysis of 2015 ACP data. New England and Alaska conventions saw 42 percent of all baptisms from church plants. And in Canada, 62 percent of all reported baptisms came from churches started since 2010.

"Your missionaries are reaching people for Christ," Ezell said. "More Gospel congregations will lead to more Gospel conversations."

Church plants are also growing the SBC footprint beyond the South. In several state conventions, churches started since 2010 account for more than 20 percent of all SBC churches. In the Penn-South Jersey, Minnesota-Wisconsin and New York state conventions, 30 percent of all churches were started since 2010. One-third of all SBC churches in the New England convention are post-2010 plants and in Canada, it's 47 percent.

"Southern Baptist work is growing stronger and stronger in these areas because your churches sacrificially send the resources," Ezell told SBC messengers.

In closing, Ezell thanked Southern Baptists for giving the second highest amount ever to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions last year.

"We exist to serve pastors and churches," he said. "You are the missionary-sending centers. You are the church planting centers."

Mike Ebert writes for the North American Mission Board.
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