In early March, the North American Mission Board released their 2022 Ministry Report, outlining their FY 2021 performance. NAMB has been the SBC arm for planting churches domestically and is helmed by Kevin Ezell, who we label as the Phantom Menace within Big Eva. Based on their financial reports, this label, along with the description that Ezell is a part of the Baptist Biumvirate is entirely vindicated. Unfortunately, too many faithful Southern Baptist donate to the various SBC wings or the Annie Armstrong offering without a clear picture of what happens to the money.
NAMB’s Opening Statement
To begin their report, NAMB offers its spin on the financials by detailing at length the activities they are involved in, which can be categorized by church planting, evangelism, relief efforts, and leadership development. In short, they are burying their financial report underneath their lengthy outline of their organizational activities.
Of all the numbers they release, the church planting data is not updated to reflect 2021. Their fiscal year ends in September, and in releasing their report on March 4th, one has to wonder why the church plant numbers for 2021 are not featured in this report. Instead, they feature their 2020 data, which is verbatim from their 2021 Ministry Report.
Southern Baptists planted 588 new churches, 143 new churches affiliated with the SBC and 126 church campuses were launched. To better understand and assess the status of churches in the SBC, new church campuses began to be tabulated in 2019. Altogether, Southern Baptists added 857 new congregations in 2020. (Pg 4)
Out of the 588 churches they planted, only 143 (24%) are actually SBC churches. NAMB has been caught funding woke, egalitarian and out right apostate churches in the past. These include CenterSet Church in California, a prosperity ARC church in Florida, and James Macdonald’s Harvest Bible Chapel. Majority of the churches they are planting are not even SBC churches and its unclear whether church campuses indicates collegiate outreach or megachurch expansion, which they have also funded before with JD Greear.
Ahead of the SBC Annual Meeting, NAMB also partners with Southern Baptist partners in the host state and city to host a Crossover evangelism event. NAMB, Southern Baptist seminaries and Tennessee Baptists came together for Crossover in Nashville. NAMB’s evangelism team has been working closely with California Baptists ahead of the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim to conduct Crossover 2022.
In this interesting nugget, what seems like a genuine outreach effort could also be the means by which NAMB influenced the SBC presidential nomination of Ed Litton. Basically, they used this outreach to bring liberal messengers to the convention to promote liberal candidates. They likely plan to do this again in Anaheim.
The Balance Sheet
A balance sheet is a novel into the operations of an organization. From here all other reports derive as a company’s operations reflect its assets. How many SBC faithful know that NAMB has half a billion dollars in assets? That alone would make them worth billions in the stock market. Surprisingly, their Cash balance is the least suspicious asset they categorize. NAMB possesses over $222 million in investments. They own over $111 in property, that is real estate and other assets. One might inquire suspicion as to their Church Loans of $75 million.
NAMB possesses $109 million in stocks and another $78 million in mutual funds (also mostly stocks), amounting to nearly $200 million on the financial market. Then they employ nontraditional investments like hedge funds and Limited Partnership Interests. The latter would indicate that they are business partners in various small business ventures, which could involve others in Big Eva.
It would not be problematic if their financial investments matched their pension obligations of $47 million. That would provide a reasonable justification and it might be seen as prudent to have the obligated amount in savings. But their investments far exceed that of their retirement obligations. This is not a rainy-day fund either, as there is no amount of rain which justifies this amount of money. Is NAMB really about missions, or is it a glorified piggy bank for its board to enrich itself via the stock market?
Not included under investments is their real estate portfolio, which places itself under Property and Equipment, which would imply that they are used for operations.
In FY 2021, they increased their total property and equipment holdings by $23.7 million. Just as a note, the Construction in progress reduced and was likely allocated as Buildings and Building Improvements to the tune of $5 million. Meanwhile NAMB spent $6.7 million on land acquisition and $19 million on Buildings and building improvements, less the construction in progress difference of $5 million.
NAMB owns a real estate portfolio of nearly $118 million. In 2021, Reform NAMB exposed NAMB’s property buying scheme which amounts to $62 million for over 50 properties in places not identified as send cities. Reform NAMB suggested that they pay upwards $850K in property taxes, but it is unclear where or whether they include this on their expense report.
The Bank of NAMB
The idea of a mission board engaging in lending activity is not inherently a negative. In planting churches, it might be effective stewardship of the resources for it to be owned by the church planting organizations with the church planters managing the assets on the ground level. This in theory could be used to ensure doctrinal compliance of church planters or effective management of resources. In other words, they extend the church plant resources as loans to ensure the church plant is effectively managed. Of course, we know NAMB does not effectively manage its church plants or hold them to Baptist doctrine, as previously stated. But in theory, there is a practical reason for identifying these assets as loans to startup churches, but this is not evident with NAMB.
In its report, NAMB stratifies their loans. I adapted it into a spreadsheet to identify the Year over Year (YOY) changes along with the average loan balance. In FY 2021, it appears that NAMB reduced its lending activity; however, this period begins in October of 2020, so there is a Covid impact on their lending activities. Still, how many are aware that 57.5% of their loans are in excess of $1 million. To whom or what that money is being spent is undisclosed in their report. They do not name any of their largest debtors. It can be reasoned that it involves church plant real estate, but why would a plant require that much money? Should not a church plant be small, possibly renting its initial location before growing to occupy its own space, but this would assume these loans are going towards church plants and not established churches.
Though NAMB is not transparent on who their borrowers are, they do stratify by geographic regions for states over 5% of the portfolio. I found surprising the lending activities in Ohio, but the other states felt in line with NAMB’s send cities, except Georgia where NAMB is headquartered. Now at $7.68 million, Colorado rose from $8.9 million in 2018, peaked at $13.6 in 2019, before receding to its current levels. Such dramatic changes in lending make me suspicious whether these loans are long term as their report suggests.
Based on the Send Network, there are only three church plants with physical addresses in Washington DC: Mercy of Christ Fellowship Church, Kings Church, and Congress Heights Community Church. The others on their map, even the ones they place within DC, are actually in Rockville or Silver Spring. Theoretically, any loans would be labeled under Maryland just as McLean Bible Church would technically be Virginia. All three church plants are modest and lack their own location, except for King’s Church which appears to be the most established of the DC plants. In a confined geographic area such as Washington DC, where it should be easier to identify the borrowers, it is likely that they are lending $1 million on average to existing, established churches in DC and not utilizing these loans for planting operations. Furthermore, the Send Network does not remove shuddered churches from its records, making the borrowers more difficult to identify.
My personal guess would be District Church, a church that possibly imposed vaccine passports. This egalitarian church purchased its ministry office in 2020, as stated on their website and confirmed via property records for a value around or in excess of $1.6 million. They raised $2.6 million from over 750 donors for this initiative. It is plausible they used a NAMB assistance to acquire this property but unverified. The same goes for when any alleged lending could have transpired as this is the first year DC cracked the 5% threshold.
One must wonder what NAMB is financing with its loans and what type of organizations they are issuing loans towards.
Revenues and Expenditures
Annually, NAMB received $181 million revenues, with the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering being the largest contributor to its funding, followed by their investment income. This was a substantial revenue increase driven by the Annie Armstrong offering and investment activities. About 27% of their revenue comes from internal operations, that is their investments and lending business. About $3.9 million is received from interest on these loans. They have a year of revenue in savings, and then some. Over $40 million in revenue is unexpended during the period.
Just like the revenues, probably the most glaring red flag is that NAMB’s investments and real estate far exceeds their annual expenditures by over $100 million. They could go without outside funding for two years and sustain their current operations. They boast that they spent $75 million on church planting, but that is consumed in non-cash expenses (depreciation), $16 million in personnel along with millions in benefits, and the number can quickly be reduced. The Church Planting portion is only $23 million with maybe the $17.5 million in assistance. All that money and they do not disclose their church plant numbers.
Understandably, NAMB pays its church planters, but its planting fewer churches now than it was a decade ago. Based on their categorization, it is unclear where any property taxes would fall under. They allocate cost based on the purpose of an expenditure. For example, if a church planter spends 40% of their time planting churches and 60% of their time doing relief, they would fall under relief. The same goes for other expenses.
The organization is bigger, has more funding, yet is doing less for the dollars spent. Instead, missions work seems to be a side project to managing their investment portfolio. If the Great Commission were truly important, then they would be operating as if it were. How many churches could be planted with $200 million? How many missionaries could be sent abroad? Instead, they ask faithful members in the pews to donate, deceiving them into thinking their entire donation goes towards building Southern Baptist churches. In reality, this money funds non-SBC churches whose doctrinal alignment strays into apostacy. It is helmed by men who are interested in sordid gain, like Kevin Ezell, or Marxist church planters like Dhati Lewis, former head of the Send Network, who is still referenced on their promotional material.
The corruption occurring at NAMB must be addressed, and church members deserve to be made aware of where the money they donate in good faith goes. Southern Baptists must publicly boycott the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. After all, they do not need the money, but they will gladly take it.