NAMB celebrates baptisms, evangelism efforts at SBC annual meeting

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) — In 2023, 35 out of 41 Southern Baptist state conventions reported increases in baptisms from the previous year. During his report to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Indianapolis June 12, North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell invited several of those state leaders to join him to recognize NAMB’s partnership in evangelism with state conventions.

“We’re seeing big numbers,” Ezell said, “but each individual decision is eternally important, and God honors each and every one, but we can’t rest and be satisfied until everyone across the globe hears the good news. But, we can celebrate what God is doing in and through each of you and each of our churches.”

Overall, baptisms increased by 26% among Southern Baptist churches, the highest percentage gain in at least 25 years with only 61% of churches reporting, Ezell said.

“At the North American Mission Board, it’s all about the gospel,” Ezell stated. “That’s why we plant churches through Send Network. That’s why we meet needs through Send Relief. That’s why we provide evangelism resources. That’s why we send over 3,000 chaplains all over the world. We do these things to lead more people to Jesus, and it’s working.”

Ezell invited the state executives to the stage to represent their pastors “who have labored so tirelessly to share the good news,” said Ezell.

“The state conventions are critical partners to the North American Mission Board,” Ezell said. “And I am grateful to serve along with such godly men.”

A few of the state leaders shared specific stories of what God has been doing in their states through their churches and pastors.

Barry Whitworth, state executive for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South New Jersey, reported a 61% increase in baptisms over 2022, with 1,602 new believers.

Todd Unzicker, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, highlighted a 34% increase in baptisms, the most in four years. He referred to their initiative called “Fill the Tank,” referencing an effort to encourage churches to fill their baptismal pools with water.

Unzicker drove from the mountains to the coast of the state, sharing the vision with churches.

“We noticed a lot of baptistries were full of boxes of Christmas decorations and things from the Easter pageant,” Unzicker said. “So, we just challenged every single church that if they would believe in faith to fill the tank — to pick one day and fill their tank — believing that from this day to that day, the Lord would save. And we saw many saved.”

The Baptist Convention of New England (BCNE) celebrated a 17% increase in baptisms — 33,000 baptisms in the last 24 years, Ezell noted.

“We’re experiencing an incredible revival in New England right now,” said BCNE Executive Director Terry Dorsett, much of it driven by the 57% of our churches that worship in a language other than English. God is doing something in New England, and we’re just glad to join Him in it.”

In Puerto Rico, there was a gap of 20 years between church plants in the San Juan metro area, but since 2016, NAMB and the Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in Puerto Rico (CIBSPR), have started 22 new congregations in and around the city.

“The gospel is lit and burning hot,” Ezell said before asking Soto to share that Puerto Rico witnessed a 24% increase in baptisms in 2023.

Pete Ramirez, executive director of the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC), reported that their churches experienced a more than two-fold baptism increase over the previous year.

“This year, we are challenging our churches to not just count the cost of ministry but to count the blessings,” Ramirez said. “We expect those numbers of baptisms to continue to grow.”

Ezell then introduced Tommy Green, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention. The Sunshine State witnessed nearly 30,000 public professions of faith in 2023, leading all state conventions in baptisms with a 33% increase over the previous year.

“We’re just so blessed to have incredible pastors and churches who have a heart to reach Florida for Christ just like every other area of our nation,” Green said. “Florida is a fast-growing state — 300,000 people per year are moving into the state of Florida. Our churches are deeply committed to being multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual multi-generational in order to make a difference in the state of Florida for Christ.”

In April, Green announced his plans to retire, and Ezell recognized Green for his years of service as a leader in Florida.

“Tommy is tireless when it comes to personal evangelism and leading the way for our churches to do the same,” Ezell said. “They are a great partner in Send Network and Send Relief. I just want to take a minute to say thank you for your ministry,” he told Green. “Thank you for your cooperative spirit, and thank you for your friendship.”

Following the report, Dustin Slaton, pastor of and messenger from First Baptist Church in Round Rock, Texas, asked Ezell about the nature of the ministry relationship between NAMB and the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), and whether NAMB can partner with BGCT churches that affirm the 1963 version of the Baptist Faith and Message rather than 2000 edition of the confession.

After thanking Slaton for asking “a very good question in the right spirit,” Ezell continued, “NAMB has had a long-standing commitment to plant churches that partner with state conventions, and we go by the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BFM2K).”

As an entity of the SBC, NAMB’s doctrinal standard is the BFM2K, and NAMB only provides financial support for church plants that affirm the same standard. Ezell explained that NAMB can partner with a BGCT church that wants to plant a church outside the state of Texas because the other state conventions affirm the BFM2K.

“The challenge for us is, in Texas, [the BGCT] does not go by that Baptist Faith and Message that we identify with,” Ezell said. “So, my question has always been back the other way. Look, I cannot and will not change that standard, but I would love for you to consider, for your state convention, to adopt the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. We definitely want to partner with you and your church.”

Later in the day, Ezell said he had already followed up with pastor Slaton to explore ways NAMB can best serve his church.

For more information on NAMB’s initiatives and how to get involved, visit NAMB.net.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.)

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