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  • Tony Lynn

Increased professions, baptisms, and generosity



PLYMOUTH – Last year, 35 out of 41 Southern Baptist state conventions reported increases in baptisms from the previous year. At the annual Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) gathering in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 11-12, 2024, Dr. Kevin Ezell, President of the North American Mission Board, while on stage with state convention executives from across North America announced, “Overall, baptisms increased by 26% among SBC churches, the highest percentage gain in at least 25 years.” Ezell invited the state executives to the stage to represent their respective pastors who as Ezell expressed, “have labored so tirelessly to share the Good News.”

 


Addressing the audience of 11,000 SBC voting messengers, Ezell went on to say, “We’re seeing big numbers, but each individual decision is eternally important, and God honors each and every one, but we can’t rest and be satisfied until everyone across the globe hears the Good News. But we can celebrate what God is doing in and through each of you and each of your churches.”

 


Florida Leads with Almost 30,000 Baptisms

 

During his remarks Ezell introduced Dr. Tommy Green, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention who earlier this year announced his intention to retire on December 31, 2024. Florida saw nearly 30,000 public professions of faith and baptisms in 2023 which was a 33% increase over the previous year.

 

Green said, “We’re just so blessed to have incredible pastors and churches who have a heart to reach Florida for Christ just like every other area of our nation. Florida is a fast-growing state, 300,000 people per year are moving into the state of Florida. Our churches are deeply committed to being multicultural, multi-ethnic, multilingual, multi-generational in order to make a difference in the state of Florida for Christ.”

 

Ezell, with emotion in his voice, said of Green, “Tommy is tireless when it comes to personal evangelism and leading the way for our churches to do the same. They are a great partner in Send Network and Send Relief. I just want to take a minute to say thank you for your ministry. Thank you for your cooperative spirit and thank you for your friendship.”

 


Michigan Recognized as the First Send State

 

During a separate presentation at the convention, Ezell featured stories from Canada and Michigan. Ezell introduced Michigan Baptist’s State Executive-Treasurer, Pastor Tim Patterson saying, “Michigan was the very first Send Network state, and is a state with 10,000,000 people and has a great need for the Gospel.” Ezell added, “Since 2010 they have added 137 new congregations, many of these are church plants and others are established churches that want to be part of what Southern Baptists are doing in Michigan.”

 

Patterson, who started his ministry with Michigan Baptists in the summer of 2015, and who intends to step down from Michigan’s leadership on December 31, 2024 to return to Florida explained how Michigan’s progress rests in the unity of the pastors and churches when he said, “Our pastors are focused, and they’re all in for the Gospel. That’s what I love about it. We’ve decided we can do a lot more together than we can by ourselves.” Patterson added, “As we’ve begun to have more enthusiasm and excitement about what God wants to do, our associations, our state, and our local churches have come together to truly make a Gospel impact. We call it punching holes in the darkness.”

 

Michigan’s Baptisms and Church Plant Generosity

 

Ezell announced to the audience who responded with applause that Michigan experienced a 31% increase in baptisms during 2023 compared to the previous year for a total of 1389 reported baptisms.

 

Ezell, highlighting the outstanding culture of generosity among Michigan’s young Send Network churches mentioned that 3 of the top 10 churches giving to the Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions and 3 of the top 10 churches giving to the Cooperative Program are led by young Send Network church planters. Patterson replied, “We have these particular churches (4 young church planters in total in the 2 categories) who want to give and make a difference. In fact, one of our church plants is the top Cooperative Program giver in Michigan which is just exciting to me.”

 

Mile City Church and Travis Whittaker

 

Ezell and Patterson moved the conversation to feature one of Michigan’s church plants that started the same year Patterson arrived in Michigan. Ezell said, “One of the church planters I know that we’re very proud of is Travis Whittaker.” Reflecting the well-defined culture of the Send Network, Whittaker and his family planted Mile City Church, Plymouth with 75 people just nine years ago. The congregation has multiplied more rapidly than any other church in the state.

 

Patterson went on to say of Whittaker and Mile City Church, “They have planted 7 churches out of that 1 church and they’re about to plant their eighth church. One of the churches they’ve recently planted was a Hispanic church doing a phenomenal work. Another is a Japanese church, and then another that was planted, called Lantern Church, is led by a young guy who was saved . . . grew up in the church . . . and was called to the ministry of church planting.”

 

Whittaker has commented about the sacrifice of starting new churches to Patterson in previous conversations. Patterson shared, “Travis said, Tim, you know I love seeing churches get planted but buddy it’s hard to let a group of my people go every time.” Patterson went on to add, “Because multiplication is built into their DNA . . . they’re going to plant churches and they are multiplying.”

 


At the conclusion of the report Ezell said, “Many of you may not know this, but Tim is transitioning, retiring, and I just want to say thank you for your partnership, brother, and your friendship.” Ezell then invited Patterson to lead a time of prayer, with 11,000 SBC messengers, over preschooler Luke who is in a battle to regain his health and is the grandson of the Executive Director of the Canadian National Baptist Convention, Dr. Jeff Christopherson. It was a classic moment of convention proceedings when everyone was reminded that those who lead the seminaries, the states, and the entities/agencies of the SBC are pastors with caring and supportive hearts for one another, as well as, a lost world.

 

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Tony L. Lynn is the Send Network Director for Michigan and the Language/Ethnic Church Planting Catalyst. Before coming on staff at the BSCM, Tony served as a lead pastor in Michigan churches and as an international missionary, along with his wife Jamie, in the Niger Republic, France, and Canada.




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