Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What Kevin Ezell cannot do at NAMB

Everyone important likes Kevin Ezell. Shoot, everyone who has said anything about him likes him: He is an outstanding pastor, he loves missions, he is a gifted preacher, he is a committed Christian, he is a great church starter. Absent a train wreck, he will be the CEO of the North American Mission Board, Southern Baptist’s second largest agency come next Tuesday.

But there seem to be a few things he cannot do:

1. He cannot say he has led by example in giving to NAMB's major offering, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, which provides more of NAMB's funding than any other single source.

2. He cannot say that he has led by example in giving to the Cooperative Program, which, together with the AAEO provides over $100 million of NAMB's $130+ million budget.

3. He cannot say that his church is an example of what the Great Commission Task Force recommended with respect to the Cooperative Program being the "central means of supporting Great Commission ministries."

Now Kevin Ezell can say that his church has been doing direct church planting as a substitute for sending NAMB these funds. Maybe that's the way he (and NAMB trustees) look at his record.

He could say that his church is so large that the idea of funneling money through a state convention is not necessary.

He can say that what his church has been doing is what NAMB ought to be doing, that is, to help the churches plant churches like his church has been doing.

He might can say that what his church has been doing is working better than what NAMB has been doing.

He can say and do a lot of things but he cannot say to the tens of thousands of SBC churches that they should give generously and sacrificially to Annie and the CP without a serious personal caveat.

All that said, we all know that churches have been giving smaller and smaller percentages of their offering plate dollars through the Cooperative Program for decades with megachurches being the leading example of this practice. Ezell’s church fits this pattern. It is where we are and where we seem to be headed.

Maybe his church had some formal partnership arrangement with NAMB whereby they coordinated on church starts and by-passed putting their money in Annie to fund that. I don’t know.

His nomination could perhaps be simply and directly explained as a recognition that we do have the bloated bureaucracies, primarily within state conventions, and we are attempting to change that by having leaders who pointedly speak against and direct their giving around those state conventions? After all, Kevin Ezell said that his church wasn’t interested in giving to the KBC when they kept about 2/3 of the money in state. No one tells a local church they cannot think that way, but as leader of NAMB...?

Southern Baptists know, NAMB trustees acutely know, that NAMB needs some success. I hope they find it with Ezell. I'm not against him at all. I’m just making the obvious points here and I do wish that trustees and Ezell would address the questions here.

Peter Lumpkins, a racehorse whereas I am a plodder, has a much more
detailed analysis of Ezell's church spending practices.

If I'm wrong someone please, quickly show me.


Norm said...

Norm: Recently expressed by one was a concern about inadequate NAMB financing for church plants. Money here and there, but never sufficiently enough anywhere; thus we were left with envisioning a flawed mission philosophy that is manifested by spreading money here and there in order to attain greater visibility (and resulting kudos), effectiveness notwithstanding. Perhaps an intended take-way from the comments was that SBC entities need to fund less plants, but fund them more thoroughly, given that is what the megas do.

Given the megas were dissatisfied with the "more but with less" mission philosophy, they, instead, respectfully decline to cooperate with less affluent churches in funding new churches, preferring to go out on their own, citing a more efficient and presumably more effective funding philosophy. But is it? Is it about funding or funding and something more?

Highview plans to fund church plants in the current fiscal year in the following areas: New York City, $12,000, Philadelphia, $12,000; Cleveland, $12,000; Atlanta, $12,000; Indianapolis, $12,000; and Boise, $12,000.

Would not the same concern arise for these paltry sums, as did a concern about NAMB funding? Would it not make sense for Highview to fund fewer plants but fund them more adequately? Is this not the argument those from the megas use to separate themselves from cooperative mechanisms with a perceived suspect funding philosophy?

Why would this be a route taken by a mega? Why would it, apparently, do the very thing it supposedly criticized in another body?

The question I would ask is who tends to benefit the most in a church that has many church plants, adequacy of funding notwithstanding? Assume a high degree of rationality in organizational functioning if you wish, but be willing to miss much of what is occurring and why it is occurring. In many instances, nature of the institution notwithstanding, trust your eyes more than your ears. Bang for 1 at 72, but greater bang for 6 at 12, apparently. I do not know the particulars of each, but am open; however, in a mega’s criticism of NAMB for its 6 at 12 instead of 1 at 72 approach, the particulars did not seem to matter.

Anonymous said...

You're rarely wrong.


jon said...

Once again, state conventions have been lumped into one large bloated bureaucracy...where you serve--maybe so; but you hurt those state conventions that are NOT in that category when you paint with a broad stroke. If you have issues with your state, I suggest you take it up with its leadership and not lump MY state into that category. Do I sound angry? You bet. I am furious with you guys who blame all that is wrong with this picture at ALL states when in reality only three or four are the guilty parties.

When looking at the use of CP funds, why shouldn't states keep MORE? IMB, NAMB, and at least three of the seminaries are wasting money hand over fist--but the only one that comes out in the GCR report is NAMB.

I personally would like to see my state keep ALL CP until this fight in the SBC is over. I am sick and tired of these mega church guys not pulling their weight with the funding but wanting to call the shots and hold the positions. Johnny Hunt, Ronnie Floyd, Ted Traylor, et al.... (and now Kevin Ezell), have no business in places of leadership. THey don't represent the average southern baptist; not in giving, not in spirit, not in size.

I have called my trustees and requested a NO vote next week.