Editor’s note: This story was updated on Sept. 1 with a comment from Ezell and new information. The story may be accessed here.
PENSACOLA (FBW) – Louisville pastor Kevin Ezell has been nominated president of the North American Mission Board, search chairman Ted Traylor told Florida Baptist Witness today.
The recommendation of Ezell, senior pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville and immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference, will be considered Sept. 14 at a special called meeting.
Ezell, 48, is the unanimous choice of the eight-person search committee.
Trustee chairman Tim Dowdy, an ex officio member of the search committee, informed NAMB trustees of Ezell’s nomination in a letter sent via e-mail tonight. Yesterday, Dowdy announced the special called meeting in an e-mail to trustees.
In the Aug. 31 letter Traylor provided to the Witness, Dowdy told trustees Ezell is a “gifted preacher and teacher and a faithful ambassador of the Lord with a passion for reaching the lost and touching the world for Jesus Christ. His own family embodies this commitment as Kevin and his wife of almost 25 years, Lynette, have three natural children and three adopted children from three different countries: Ethiopia, China, and the Philippines.”
Dowdy, pastor of Eagle's Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga., noted Ezell has led his current church to grow to 6,000 members since becoming pastor in 1996 “when he stepped into a difficult situation to rebuild consensus and lead the church to flourish.”
In the last three years Highview’s membership has increased by more than 1,000, Dowdy said, “while the church’s investment in missions reached $1.2 million in 2009.”
Under Ezell’s leadership, the congregation has grown to seven campuses spread across metropolitan Louisville, including southern Indiana.
According to Dowdy, Ezell’s previous pastorates in Illinois, Tennessee and Texas all experienced significant growth.
Traylor, senior pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, said in the letter, “Kevin Ezell is a warm, personable leader who can make difficult choices in leading an organization to be laser-focused on the mission at hand.”
Ezell’s “communication and organizational skills” are cause for excitement for NAMB’s future, Traylor added.
“His family commitment to international adoption will be an inspiration to all Southern Baptists,” Traylor said of Ezell. “He has led Highview Baptist Church, a multi-campus ministry, with 12 percent of their budget being given to Southern Baptist causes. He is a loyal missions supporter.”
Traylor expressed “great joy” that Ezell was unanimously chosen by the search committee.
Ezell’s nomination drew praise from the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as one of his predecessors.
“It is with great joy and excitement to hear the good news that Kevin Ezell is the unanimous choice of the search committee for the president of NAMB,” said SBC President Bryant Wright in the letter to NAMB trustees.
“[Ezell] is a gifted leader, and so much of the convention was able to see what a great job he did of leading the pastor’s conference in Orlando in June,” Wright said.
Wright urged prayer for Ezell “as God prepares him for this new calling of key leadership for Southern Baptists as we seek to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission.”
Former SBC President James Merritt “joyfully and enthusiastically endorsed” Ezell.
“I have known Kevin for many years and have long admired his outstanding leadership skills, his pastor’s heart, his ability to work with people, and the tremendous love he has for the Southern Baptist Convention,” Merritt said.
Calling him an “outstanding selection,” Merritt said Ezell’s “unique set of personality traits, leadership abilities, and an understanding of twenty-first century evangelism in a changing culture, I think, give him tremendous qualifications to take the North American Mission Board to newer and higher levels of reaching this country for Christ.”
The letter notes that both Wright and Merritt were references for Ezell.
Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., also were quoted in the letter as references who supported Ezell’s nomination.
“This is a great day for NAMB. It is a great day for the SBC,” said Akin, who was a member of Highview for almost eight years of Ezell’s tenure as pastor.
Dockery said of Ezell, a member of his school’s Board of Reference, “is an exemplary pastor, a serious and faithful student of Scripture, and dedicated Christ-follower.”
Dowdy told fellow trustees more information about Ezell will be provided before the Sept. 14 meeting.
A native of Paducah, Ky., Ezell was born in Germany during his father’s service in the U.S. Air Force.
Ezell has served on the board of trustees of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., including as its chairman, and currently serves on the Advisory Board of Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as Union’s Board of Reference.
He earned a bachelor of science degree from Union University in Jackson, Tenn., a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, and a doctor of ministry degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.
The NAMB presidency was vacated in August 2009 when former president Geoff Hammond resigned under pressure from trustees.
Richard Harris, a NAMB executive with 30 years of experience with the agency and its predecessor entity, the Home Mission Board, has served as acting and interim president since Hammond’s resignation.
The eight-member NAMB presidential search committee was formed in October, with Traylor named chairman. Although Traylor’s term of service as a NAMB trustee concluded in June, the board agreed to allow him to continue to serve as search chairman. Traylor, however, will not have a vote when trustees consider the Ezell nomination.
In addition to Traylor, members of the search committee are Doug Dieterly, executive pastor, Plymouth Baptist Church, Plymouth, Ind.; Larry Gipson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Oneonta, Ala.; Chuck Herring, pastor of Collierville First Baptist Church in Collierville, Tenn.; Lisa Knutsen, a member of Green Valley Baptist Church in Henderson, Nev.; Ryan Palmer, pastor, Seventh Metro Church, Baltimore, Md.; and Tim Patterson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church, Jacksonville, and immediate past NAMB trustee chairman.
As chairman of NAMB's trustee board, Tim Dowdy, serves as an ex officio member of the search committee.
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