By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
ALPHARETTA, Ga.—Kevin Ezell’s first pastorate was at Hilltop Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, where he received his “first and only unanimous vote…seven to nothing” to be pastor. But it really wasn’t his only unanimous vote.
Years later, in 2010, after serving in three churches and several denominational appointments, Ezell was the unanimous choice of a seven-person search committee who recommended him as North American Mission Board president.
Elected to the post on Sept. 14, 2010, Ezell now provides strategic vision, direction and leadership as NAMB works with state partners in helping Southern Baptists to reach North America through evangelism and evangelistic church planting.
“I see the potential NAMB has if its energies and resources are focused in the right direction,” Ezell said, at his election. “I am looking forward to being able to give a very clear vision for it. You rarely have the opportunity to have this big of a Kingdom impact.”
Two years later, Ezell still is excited about the potential Kingdom impact at NAMB, having already refocused the organization through Send North America, a coordinated national strategy to help move churches and individuals into all regions of North America to reach new people through starting new churches.
The effort focuses on five regions and 30 cities, which represent each region’s largest population centers, where organizers expect to see a gospel influence radiate out of the cities and impact the rest of the region.
Prior to his nomination at NAMB, Ezell served faithfully for 14 years as senior pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., where the church experienced substantial growth both in attendance and in the number of campuses.
A pastor at heart, Ezell admits the transition to being NAMB president has not been easy on him.
“It was very difficult,” he confessed in an interview with BaptistLIFE. “I really do prefer to pastor. I really enjoy being with people, but in this position, I am very isolated from people.”
Ezell noted he spends a lot of his time preaching, “in and out” of places, but misses the excitement of “walking people down a path in their spiritual journeys.”
“A lot of guys pastor so they can preach, but I preached so I could pastor,” Ezell shared, noting his ultimate goal wasn’t to be an entity head.
Nonetheless, the role lines up with his life scripture: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24 NIV).
He’s encouraged, because he senses people understand where NAMB is now headed, and it is a much better environment than what he faced in his first two years, which had him traveling a lot and handling difficult challenges in realigning the organization to its new focus.
So far, NAMB’s budget for church planting, which used to consume 28 percent of the overall budget now consumes 45 percent of it. He’s also “thinned the staff out,” from 360 to142 people, so as to be “light, nimble and able” to spend the money necessary to fund more church planting catalyst missionaries throughout North America. Many churches are catching the vision.
Even so, Ezell is quick to say he needs to find more balance in his work so as not to miss time with his family. He and his wife, Lynette, have three biological children, Anna, Shelly, Taylor, and three adopted children, John Michael (from the Philippines), Libby (from China) and Micah Lyn (from Ethiopia).
“Every time we watch the Olympics, we all win,” he said.