HARRISBURG, Pa. (BRN) — Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), addressed the annual meeting of the Baptist Resource Network (BRN) of Pennsylvania/South Jersey, bringing heartfelt thanks for the convention’s generous support of the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and an encouraging message from Acts 18:9-10. His passionate discourse and soft southern charm and entertaining stories had the audience cheering, clapping and laughing.
Ezell began by expressing thanks for BRN Executive Director Barry Whitworth, explaining how well the vision of the Baptist Resource Network works together with the vision of the North American Mission Board. He explained how the graphics elements in NAMB’s logo represented people leaving their pews and moving into mission in their everyday lives. He praised the churches that take short term trips in the summer and fall, but challenged those in attendance to lead their churches to live on mission every single day.
“The best way to reach North America is by planting churches,” Ezell exclaimed as he turned to Acts 18 and began to recount the issues facing the apostle Paul as he walked to the city of Corinth. “Paul’s resume,” he joked, “would make it hard for him to become a planter with us. After all, we usually do not send out platers who have been in prison.”
Ezell explained it was a 50-mile walk to Corinth, and Paul had to be disappointed with the ongoing issues and lackluster results he was encountering as he attempted to start churches. Despite his setbacks, Paul had said in 1 Corinthians 2 he was determined to preach Jesus. Ezell compared Paul’s plight to what many of the leaders and pastors in the room were experiencing. Paul was emotionally discouraged and physically exhausted, but his heart was to share Jesus with more people.
Then God speaks through a vision, and tells Paul to not be afraid. This was not a caution for the future, Ezell surmised, but a command for the present. In other words, God was saying, “Stop being afraid!” Exell paraphrased.
“When things don’t go like what we think, it is scary, “ Ezell said, “but God is telling you to stop being afraid! We are in this together. We don’t just want to grow churches, we want to reach a city!”
God continues by telling Paul to “not quit.” He commands Paul not to be silent or to stop speaking.
“We can keep going because God is with us. If God is with us it changes everything!” Ezell asserted, explaining the reason we refuse to quit when our ministries are hard or disappointing is because God is with us; we are not working alone. We are working with Jesus, and He has not quit!
To illustrate, Ezell shared a story about how invested and stressed he would get watching the Kentucky Wildcats play basketball. So he decided to tape the games, only watch the ones his favorite team won, and delete the ones they lost. Now when he watches a game and the score is tied up and there are only seconds left, he does not worry or sweat. When the Wildcats are behind the entire game, he does not pace or grimace, because he knows they win the game. He can enjoy the game, because he knows who wins.
Ezell encouraged those listening to remember, “We know who wins: Jesus!” Ezell reminded, “Nothing is going to happen to you that hasn’t been sifted through God’s hands.”
God’s last encouragement in the passage was telling Paul He had people in the city whom Paul didn’t know yet, that He was going to use Paul to reach. Ezell paused before bellowing out to the audience with this final challenge, “There are many people in your cities that you do not know yet that He is going to use you to reach, too!”