By K. Faith Morgan
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — It was an hour of laughter and tears as the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send Luncheon celebrated the complex and rewarding journey of life in ministry.
“We just want to say thank you for all that you do and how you lead your churches,” said Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board to a sold-out crowd of over 3,700 pastors and their families across two venues.
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), introduced four new entity heads on stage during NAMB’s Send Luncheon. Left to right, Ezell; Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Adam Greenway, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board; and Ronnie Floyd, president of the Executive Committee. NAMB photo by Hayley Catt.
The group got to know the newest class of SBC entity heads on a personal level. The four newest leaders of SBC entities, Ronnie Floyd (president of the SBC Executive Committee), Paul Chitwood (president of IMB), Jamie Dew (president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) and Adam Greenway (president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), all came to stage wearing sweater vests—a sartorial nod to Ezell’s own signature accessory. Ezell quizzed the leaders on personal trivia, and the group of five catered to the home-town crowd in Birmingham, Alabama, with a karaoke rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama,” complete with hats, wigs and electric guitars.
Featured next was Frank Pomeroy, pastor of First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs, Texas, and Scott Gurosky of Birmingham, as Ezell shared an update from the church where a gunman killed 26 worshipers on Nov. 5, 2017. NAMB partnered with Gurosky’s design and construction company, Myrick, Gurosky and Associates, to build the congregation a new worship and education facility that opened in May.
Thousands of people attended the North American Mission Board’s Send Luncheon on Monday, June 10, 2019 ahead of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala. NAMB photo by Casey Jones.
Ezell then introduced Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama State Board of Missions and Rusty Sowell, a pastor from Beauregard, Alabama. Sowell’s church, Providence Baptist Church, responded heroically to a recent tornado in their area that took 23 lives in the small community. Sowell led his congregation to step up in ways that each was uniquely qualified to serve—a caterer leading food distribution, a retired principal organizing volunteers, retail workers organizing clothing donations and many more.
“It was a tremendous effort on everyone’s part to get to the epicenter and come together to serve the families and churches,” said Sowell. “What a tremendous witness it was to see all the people from the faith community come together to provide relief,” he added.
“You can’t lead after the tragedy unless you’ve been leading before the tragedy,” said Ezell of Sowell.
Out of gratitude for Sowell’s leadership, Ezell gifted him and his wife with a scholarship to a Timonthy+Barnabas retreat in Palm Springs, California. (Timothy+Barnabas retreats are hosted by Johnny Hunt, NAMB’s vice president of Evangelism and Leadership as a time of equipping, refreshing and encouragement for pastors and their wives.) Ezell also announced that private donors were donating $20,000 toward the church’s efforts to build a memorial to the 23 who died as a result of the devastating tornado.
Ezell then introduced the story of pastor Mike Perrigin, a bivocational pastor serving in rural Alabama. The majority of pastors in Alabama (55%) are bivocational. Perrigin came to faith in Christ at a fishing tournament sponsored by a local church. Later, he became not just a fisherman but also a fisher of men when he answered the call to ministry. He and his wife, Kim, are parents to two special-needs children as well, and while that assignment is challenging, the couple is quick to assert that parenting their children is one of the greatest joys of their life as well.
“Your normal and our normal are different,” said Kim. “We are truly blessed to have our babies that we have, and they bless others with their smiles. If that is the only reason why they’re here, we are blessed and up to the challenge to help them fill that need.”
Mike Perrigin, bivocational pastor of Chapel Hill Baptist Church in Fayette, Ala., and his wife Kim were invited to the stage during the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send Luncheon on Monday, June 10, 2019. Perrigin and his wife have two special needs children, and NAMB president Kevin Ezell shared with them that private donors through NAMB were paying off their home mortgage. NAMB photo by Casey Jones.
After the couple shared the joys and struggles of their story, Ezell told them that the last payment they made on their mortgage was indeed their last mortgage payment as generous donors had stepped up to pay off the remaining balance of the family’s mortgage. The luncheon closed as the Perrigins received a standing ovation from the attendees—several thousand ministry families recognizing and sharing their appreciation for one of their own.
Faith Morgan writes for the North American Mission Board.