Guest blog by Pastor Dwayne Milioni: Milioni is the lead pastor at Open Door Baptist Church in North Raleigh. Under Milioni’s leadership Open Door has trained and sent out leaders for seven church plants (check out their locations). He has also led in the formation of the North American Church Planting Foundation, a church-planting network that facilitates church planting through local churches. And he is the pastor of B21’s Nathan Akin and has had a tremendous influence on him.
Hope for NAMB
I recently had the privilege of spending several hours with the Kevin Ezell, the new president of our North American Mission Board. In sum, our time together was everything I had hoped for and more. As a pastor who is infatuated with the local church and loves church planting almost as much, I immediately connected with Dr. Ezell. Upon entering the NAMB building, I began to recall the many stories (some I assume were rumored) of NAMB’s mis-management our cooperative dollars, fudging on numbers of actual church plants, and the evident misdirection of agency priorities away from church planting, Forgive me, but I’ve been a little skeptical.
Add to the fact that I tend to be “anti-political” in denominational affairs and have not had much success in building relationships with local associations and state conventions. Much of this is my fault for not seeing much value in “playing ball” with organizations that seem to take more than they offer to give. Still, my disappointment is minor compared to friends who have been faithful servants of our denomination and who have labored to see Southern Baptist agencies and state conventions do the right things and do them in the right ways.
I found Kevin Ezell to be a strikingly different leader. Immediately after assuming office, he began to do the right things the right way. Being directed by our recent convention to promote the GCR (the Great Commission Resurgence), president Ezell has begun his work as a “man under authority.” With a broken heart, he told us how he has had to make deep cuts into NAMB’s staff in order to reduce their budget. It takes integrity to clean up your own house before you ask someone to clean up theirs. Ezell is setting an example for other Baptist agencies and state conventions. I pray they will follow suit.
One of the most striking statements made at our meeting came when Dr. Ezell said, “a pastor would never be allowed to do what has been allowed to take place here at NAMB,” As a local church pastor that struggles to stretch every dollar given, I really connected with this comment and felt glad that we now have a leader who serves with a pastor’s heart.
After asking Dr. Ezell what he wants the “New NAMB” to look like, I was excited to hear his desire to see millions of dollars diverted to church planting. He also wants to partner with key churches to plant churches in critical areas of North America. I asked how a local church that has been planting churches apart from the traditional path might get involved and he said that what we are doing at Open Door through our North American Church Planting Foundation will serve a model for church planting within the cooperative program. This comment really encouraged me, not just because it came from our NAMB president, but for first time I felt that our approach to planting churches via a network rather than directly through a local association and state convention was acceptable. I left feeling hopeful and more a committed Southern Baptist.
I’ve heard the mantra, “We exist to serve you,” from agency officials more times than I care to remember without seeing much application. At the new NAMB, they are really trying to live this out. Change is difficult, especially when bureaucracy has set it and the word is still out if NAMB will be able reinvent itself. After meeting with Kevin Ezell, NAMB has at least one more pastor’s support, encouragement and prayers.