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The Institute of Christian Leadership will welcome one of the most recognizable figures in Southern Baptist leadership to Mississippi College March 7 to deliver a pair of free presentations for MC faculty, staff, students, and the general public.
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, will discuss what it looks like to live a life focused on God’s mission during Chapel at 10:30 a.m. in Swor Auditorium in Nelson Hall. At 6 p.m., he will talk about how to make the most of every opportunity to share the Gospel during the Evangelism Lecture, sponsored by the Department of Christian Studies, in Provine Chapel’s upstairs meeting room.
The Evangelism Lecture series brings outstanding speakers who share fresh ideas and interesting topics with faculty, staff, and students at the Baptist-affiliated University. The presentation will mark Ezell’s first visit to the Clinton campus and the first appearance by a North American Mission Board president at the Christian University in recent memory.
Ezell’s primary role is to connect NAMB with state Baptist conventions, universities, and various organizations to facilitate evangelism and church planting in North America.
“I have heard for years what an incredible school Mississippi College is and about how active the students are in missions,” Ezell said. “I know (MC President Blake) Thompson has placed emphasized helping students find meaning and purpose in their education and in their future.
“That’s what I will be communicating in my message: How you can make your life count and live on mission as a believer, no matter where your job or ministry might take you. What’s your next missional step.”
Dr. Burn Page, professor and chair of Christian Studies, said attendees are sure to get the most out of Ezell’s dynamic and engaging presentations.
“He will captivate some students here to not only be disciples of Christ, but to be workers in the Kingdom,” Page said.
Ezell has demonstrated a heart for pastors and a passion for the Gospel. Having served as president of NAMB since 2010, he has led the organization and Southern Baptists to plant more than 9,400 churches. These church plants are responsible for almost 10 percent of all baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention.
“At the North American Mission Board, we help churches start new churches, and we also provide opportunities to serve and share Christ through compassion ministry,” he said. “We need more church planters and missionaries, but we also need believers who are going into other vocations and will connect with a new church plant to help them get started.
“There is a role to play for everyone, and we need everyone.”
Ezell has reached out to Thompson to discuss establishing a partnership between NAMB and MC to “help each student take their next step in God’s mission.”
“For some, that might be finding a tool to help them share their faith. Others might feel God is calling them to start a church or engage those in need through compassion ministry. We want to help with both of those and everything in between.
“Through this partnership, we can help connect students with ministry opportunities in every major city in North America. We offer opportunities for students to serve for a spring break, a summer, or even a semester. And when they graduate, we can connect them with a team planting a church in the city where they go for their first job.”
Page said hosting Ezell on campus represents the first step in laying the groundwork for that partnership.
“The partnership directly plays into MC’s vision statement of seeking academic excellence and commitment to the cause of Christ,” he said. “This would certainly facilitate the cause of Christ in America, starting right here on the MC campus.”
In cooperation with the International Mission Board, NAMB leads the SBC’s compassion ministry, Send Relief. Operating 20 ministry centers across the U.S. and Canada and offering mission trips and training opportunities, Send Relief connects people in need with those who care to lead people to faith in Christ.
“At NAMB, we have been building a process and infrastructure that allows churches, schools, and individuals to plug in and do some things they might not be able to accomplish on their own,” Ezell said. “When we partner together, we will reap extraordinary benefits. My goal is to share that message.
“If we work together, I believe we will see God do abundantly more than we could ever expect or imagine.”
To make the most of his inaugural campus visit, Ezell will also speak to students during lunch about ways they can connect with NAMB.
“That’s where he will connect with some students who are interested in seeing what a partnership with NAMB could look like,” said Lenow, director of church and minister relations and associate professor of Christian studies at MC. “He’ll talk about how MC students can connect to the work of NAMB, whether through church planting directly or, for students who may not be pursuing vocational ministry but are interested in being part of church planting, how they can go as part of a core group to help launch a church.
“Our ultimate goal is to establish a partnership between NAMB and MC where we have a pipeline of students serving in both short-term and long-term projects.”
Before joining NAMB, Ezell served as senior pastor of churches in Texas, Illinois, and his native Kentucky. Graduates of Union University, he and his wife, Lynette, have six children and seven grandchildren.
Ezell said one of the most important things Baptist leaders can do is remain involved with Baptist-affiliated colleges and universities throughout North America.
“The students on these campuses are not just the future of Southern Baptists; they are the future of the Christian faith in North America,” he said. “More importantly, they are the church right now. What I want to do is tell them how much we need them.
“We need their involvement. We need their ideas. We need their participation. The more their generation embraces the Gospel, participates, and leads, the better off we will be.”
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