By Tim Ellsworth,
Contributing Editor, B&R
MILLINGTON — “In ministry, it can be very difficult,” said Kevin Ezell, president, Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, based in Alpharetta, Ga. He preached during the Tennessee Baptist Convention annual meeting held here at First Baptist Church. Ezell speaks from experience. Of the churches he served, he only received one unanimous call to serve as pastor of a church and at one church, he was the only one to attend an evening service, he recalled.
The Apostle Paul also went through discouragement, noted Ezell. God responded in Acts 18:9-10 by telling Paul not to fear and not to quit because He would be with Paul. God also told Paul that He would protect Him from physical harm.
God had people there that needed to hear what Paul could share, explained Ezell.
Later Paul said in Acts 20:24 that he considered his life worth nothing in order that he might complete the task the Lord had given him.
“I don’t know where you are in ministry but I do know this. God knows exactly where you are. He’s not forgotten you and He’s promised to walk with us every step of the way,” Ezell observed, noting that Christians must remember that “it is not about us; it’s all about Him.”
He thanked Tennessee Baptists on behalf of NAMB for giving through the Cooperative Program, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Ezell also thanked Tennessee Baptists for praying for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board during the budget cuts.
He told of visiting Cuba in 2014 and learning from the pastors there. Amazingly, Baptists own a majority of the Baptist churches there and a seminary, he reported.
He learned of the sacrifices of the pastors and asked if he shouldn’t pray for them to be free. The pastors said no because of the thousands of new churches which were being planted and the many people who were becoming Christians.
The pastors explained that when the revolution occurred, Castro ordered that no more churches could be built and the existing churches could not be enlarged. Thus, any new congregations would be limited to small groups meeting in the small homes there. Yet the house churches grew and multiplied.
Then Castro ordered that a maximum of 35 people could meet in a house church. Because of that edict, the churches multiplied faster.
The Cuban pastor told Ezell, “You see, God is a big God, because God started a church planting movement in Cuba and He used a Communist leader to do it.”
Ezell joked that some Sunday School classes should follow suit.
He referred back to Paul and the fact that God told him when he went to Jerusalem he would have to suffer there. In later chapters, good, well-meaning people came to Paul and tried to advise him against going. They might have pointed out that Paul wouldn’t get a lot accomplished in prison, noted Ezell.
“We must never, ever underestimate what it is that God can do through each one of us.”
He told of being a part of a missions fair in Florida and meeting a church planter in Augusta, Maine. Ezell said he learned the new church was meeting in a building that looked like a two-car garage. The congregation had grown to about 200 people and was meeting in three services on Sunday mornings.
Ezell, without identifying himself as associated with NAMB, learned that the church planter wasn’t receiving any help from NAMB. He also learned that a church facility was for sale in Augusta, but it was too expensive for the congregation to buy.
Ezell arranged for the purchase of the church facility. Recently the congregation drew 783 people to its new facility. The crowd applauded.
“How is that possible? … It’s possible because we are all in this together and because we pray, we faithfully give. I’m thankful we’re a family, a Southern Baptist family.”