For nearly 40 years the Billy Graham Center (BGC) at Wheaton College has served as a hub of mission and evangelism training and inspiration. Rev. Billy Graham sought to develop a Center for strategic planning, inspiration, and preparation of leaders to fuel the evangelism mission of the Church in the world.
Today, the BGC uniquely blends practical missions with academic rigor to empower Christian leaders in nearly every sector of society to lead with the gospel in all they do. In addition to recently launching the Evangelism Leaders Fellowship (ELF) for denominational and network missions leaders and the Rural Matters Institute for pastors and leaders serving in rural settings, the BGC is partnering to launch the SEND Institute, a think-tank on church planting.
Needless to say, I’ve cared about church planting for a long time. But, over time, roles change. I’ve planted churches, and I’m thankful for that, but now I think we need a place for church planting thought leadership, serving all kinds of gospel-focused groups, to help church planting move to a new level of effectiveness in mission.
When I transitioned to my role as the Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center last year, one of the first meetings I had was with Kevin Ezell and Jeff Christopherson of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention.
NAMB has recently retooled and refocused on church planting. They have, in my view, put a much needed greater focus on church planting, and decided to be the best-in-class in what they do—primarily church planting now.
And they have done that. In my view, NAMB is now leading the way in North American church planting.
So I flew down to see Kevin and Jeff and told them that I’d like them to share what they are learning, and help connect others to do the same.
Doing it at Wheaton gives us a connection with a wonderful array of evangelical denominations and leaders.
So together we are launching the SEND Institute. Jeff (their VP) and I will serve as co-executive directors, and we will gather a group of evangelical leaders to partner with us to share what we are all learning from one another.
The SEND Institute is a partnership between the NAMB and the BGC for mutual learning, collaborative thinking, and more. Together with the Church Planting Leadership Fellowship (CPLF), we will continue to gather leaders, but now we will also do so in ways that we learn from one another, provoke one another to love and good deeds, and see the gospel proclaimed through more and better church plants.
Jeff and I plan for the SEND Institute to become a hub of the best thinking, research, and idea exchanges leading to more effective church planting and evangelism. The SEND Institute will host learning symposiums both in Alpharetta, GA, where NAMB is located, and at Wheaton College.
Jeff and I will collaborate on recruiting and hiring a Director of the SEND Institute. This person will work out of the offices at the Billy Graham Center on Wheaton College’s campus. To learn more about the position, email bgce[@]wheaton[.]edu. Use the same email if you’d like to be a part of the learning communities we are helping to create.
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.