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Evangelism is not on NAMB back burner


TORONTO — Perhaps you have heard the maxim that a huge cruise ship takes a long time to turn around, but a small boat can turn around on a dime.

A cruise ship, by definition, is designed for the comfort of the passengers. Even in a critical rescue situation, getting the vessel to turn 180 degrees will take up to 15 minutes and anything faster would create huge problems, not only with the passengers’ comfort, but also with onboard systems that aren’t equipped to handle that kind of quick change.

Al Gilbert

When Kevin Ezell became president of the North American Mission Board three years ago he began to initiate some significant changes. It has taken most of his three years to turn the huge agency in a new direction and in some cases it was a battle royal.

At the Toronto NAMB meeting on Oct. 9, Ezell declared, “The war is over.” He illustrated his point with an episode he had seen from the 1970s TV show Gilligan’s Island.

Ezell explained, “In a lagoon Gilligan has an encounter with a Japanese midget submarine piloted by a Japanese sailor who doesn’t know the war is over.

“It’s not long before the Japanese sailor starts capturing the castaways one by one until everyone but the Skipper and Gilligan are his prisoner. Unable to pilot the midget sub out of the lagoon, the two remaining castaways are forced to free their friends. At last the castaways attempt to convince the Japanese sailor that the war is over.”

"We must ask – what will it take to catalyze a discipleship movement ..."

Al Gilbert
Vice president of evangelism

Presumably, the major battles encountered in turning the agency in a new direction have been won and now the real war against the powers of darkness has begun with a new and effective strategy that highlights church planting and evangelism.

While much attention has been given to church planting in the three years Ezell has been at NAMB, he explained, “Some would doubt our sincerity or commitment to evangelism, but let no one think we are emphasizing evangelism to a lesser degree.

“You can’t judge an entity by how many people are in an area. We have downsized our staff for the purpose of efficiency and to put more missionaries on the field. Our agency once had 425 employees (counting those at the Radio and Television Commission in Fort Worth). Now we have 142 on our staff in Alpharetta, but evangelism is a part of everything we do.”

Al Gilbert, NAMB’s vice president of evangelism, confirmed Ezell’s statement by adding, “We must ask – what will it take to catalyze a discipleship movement that results in every believer understanding and engaging in the mission of God – every believer sent and sharing?

“We long to see every believer using his or her gift and vocation to share the good news of Jesus Christ.”

“The initiatives on the horizon,” Gilbert stated, “include My Hope with Billy Graham. My Hope is a nationwide effort to reach people across the United States with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

To find out how you can become a “Matthew” or your church can be one of more than 22,000 involved in My Hope go to

More extensive coverage of the meeting in Toronto will be forthcoming.