Kevin Ezell’s first NAMB report was pretty much boilerplate SBC agency reporting – testimonies, encouraging stories, videos of work being done. That is not a criticism, it’s a fact. In these reports, the agency heads highlight the good work being done by their agency and they all follow a fairly similar pattern. It is good to hear the good things that are happening through our SBC schools and missions agencies, but the reports do have a certain sameness.
But then, Ezell engaged in some straight-shooting with the Phoenix crowd, helping us to “Define Reality”. He used Jesus statements in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard it said…but I say to you,” to correct some of the myths that have gone on for years at NAMB.
Basically, the president of NAMB stood before the convention and confessed that for years, perhaps decades, NAMB has been reporting inaccurate and inflated numbers to the convention. We have been publishing numbers that are simply not accurate.
He told us that NAMB has had no system for tracking church plants in place – they did not ask for names and addresses of the plants, the names of the planters, or engage in any kind of tracking. Then he dropped what was one of the great lines of the convention:
“If Walmart can track how much toilet paper it sells in an hour, we can track how many churches we plant in a year.”
He then promised us that we would have accurate tracking information and that the numbers coming from NAMB from now on would be accurate and honest.
Here are some of the facts he gave:
1) He is making a concerted effort to reduce bureaucracy at NAMB and increase missions. He reduced Alpharetta staff (cut by 38%, I think), saving 8 million per year so that more of NAMB’s money can go to the field. He says that the cuts of NAMB staff are not an indication that they were planning to do less, but more. They plan to do more with less infrastructure and by establishing a regional mobilization strategy.
2) “You have heard it said” that NAMB plants close to 1500 church plants a year, “but I say unto you” that NAMB planted 769 churches. In other words, like half the members of our churches, half the churches we planted are fantasies.
Whatever one’s opinions are of Ezell’s actions or philosophies, can we not agree that accurate reporting of numbers is a good thing?
For the record, he did not accuse previous NAMB leadership of intentional deceit, just sloppy record-keeping. He did, very clearly, distinguish between “Old NAMB” and “New NAMB.” I think the message is clear, that NAMB is not going to be what it has been.
3) “You have heard it said” that NAMB has over 5100 missionaries, “but I say unto you” that 3480 of those are jointly funded with state conventions (NAMB appointed with partial funding) and 1839 are missionary spouses, some of whom have ministry assignments and some of whom do not. He also pointed out that that 1616 are Mission Service Corps volunteers who receive no NAMB funding at all.
He did add that we have 3400 military chaplains and 955 summer missionaries. We have a good group doing good work, but our numbers reporting again has been inaccurate.
I would also make the following points:
1) He was VERY careful to honor state conventions and express appreciation with them. There seems to have been a change from the GCR rhetoric that was pretty hard on the state conventions, and it appears that a new partnership is forming. This seems to be very good news.
2) He addressed the “Acts 29” and church planting controversies, though not by name.
He told us that NAMB is planting churches with the following identity.
- NAMB is only planting Southern Baptist churches.
- All NAMB plants subscribe to the BF&M 2000 as their doctrinal statement.
- All NAMB plants give to the Cooperative Program.
3) He gave a moving tribute to Disaster Relief ministry and its workers, focusing on one couple from Joplin, MO, who have been working with DR for 6 years until they became victims of the Joplin tornado a few weeks ago. They gave a moving testimony.