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NAMB president responds to evangelist's disappointment

 

In the Sept. 22 issue of The Index, noted Southern Baptist evangelist Jerry Drace of Humboldt, TN, commented on the declining visibility of the role of evangelists in the Southern Baptist Convention. One of his points focused on the North American Mission Board’s decision to eliminate some historic funding to the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists. In this response, NAMB President Kevin Ezell explains the agency’s policy of channeling as many funds as possible into church planting.

I was disappointed to read Jerry Drace’s guest column in which he listed the North American Mission Board as the number one reason for the demise of the Southern Baptist evangelist. He interprets our decision to no longer pay meals, hotel and reception costs for evangelists at the annual Southern Baptist Convention as a “spiritual slap in the face.” I couldn’t disagree more.

We still give the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists (COSBE) money to maintain its website each year and COSBE evangelists are eligible for funding through our Baptism Assistance Project that helps churches turn around low or non-existent baptism rates. But we have stopped paying for hotels, meals, meeting costs and a reception that some evangelists participate in each year during the annual Southern Baptist Convention. Here’s why:

[O]ur decision ...
is not intended as
a negative toward them – it is a way
of keeping as many dollars focused
on missionaries
and new churches
as we can.

When I arrived at NAMB a year ago, I took a close look at how we spent our money. Baptists expect that the offering dollars that go to NAMB will pay for missionaries and new churches that are working to impact lostness in North America.

The good news is – most of those offering dollars do go to our missionaries. But, I also found that NAMB literally spends millions each year on sending our staff and other people to meetings! Sometimes two or three or more staff members were traveling to the same meeting half way across the country. In this day of conference calls and Skype, face-to-face meetings that require travel should be the exception, not the rule.

So I cut NAMB’s travel budget in half at the beginning of 2011. Also, we have reduced our Alpharetta staff by more than 100 positions since I arrived. All these savings are going to missionaries and to plant more churches where they are most needed.

These changes have not been easy. But anyone who lives and works in the real world knows that companies, ministries and churches must make tough decisions like this every day.

So our decision to no longer cover travel, hotel and reception costs for evangelists to meet and greet at the annual Southern Baptist meeting is not intended as a negative toward them – it is a way of keeping as many dollars focused on missionaries and new churches as we can.

I am grateful for the sacrificial offering dollars Southern Baptists entrust us with and as long as I am president I can assure you we will spend every dime with stewardship as a top priority.