The Southern Baptist Convention's domestic mission agency elected Kentucky pastor Kevin Ezell as its new president on Tuesday.
A seven-member presidential search committee of the North American Mission Board unanimously voted for Ezell during a meeting in Atlanta.
"It has at times been discouraging and at times encouraging, but along the way God has been faithful to give us guidance," commented Tim Dowdy, chairman of the NAMB board of trustees, according to Baptist Press. "When He introduced us to Kevin, it was evident through the interview process that this was the man."
Ezell had come highly recommended by fellow Southern Baptist leaders, who testified about his heart for mission and his proven track record of supporting church planting in North America.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and a member of Ezell's Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., described his pastor as visionary and a man of honor.
Meanwhile, Ed Stetzer, a popular church planter and missiologist in the denomination, recalled that the new NAMB president had shown a heart for mission a decade ago when they first met by accident on a plane. Ezell had also met one of Stetzer's church planting students on that flight, which resulted in Highview generously supporting the church plant for four years.
"Kevin has a heart for church planting and has led out from his local church," Stetzer noted in his blog earlier this month.
Ezell, 48, became pastor of Highview Baptist Church in 1996 when the congregation was meeting on one campus and averaged 1,200 worshippers on Sunday. Today, the church has grown to seven campuses in two states with more than 4,740 worshippers for Sunday services.
This year, Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., plans to give $1.4 million to mission.
Ezell said his first priority as NAMB president will be to spend time with church planters.
"I see the potential NAMB has if its energies and resources are focused in the right direction," Ezell said, according to BP. "I am looking forward to being able to give a very clear vision for it. You rarely have the opportunity to have this big of a Kingdom impact."
Ezell succeeds Geoff Hammond, who resigned last August amid accusations of cronyism, mismanagement, and low morale among the agency's staff.
Hammond's predecessor, Bob Reccord, also resigned amid allegations of mismanagement.
"I want to see NAMB become something that Southern Baptists are proud of," said Ezell in an interview with Stetzer earlier this month. "I want to see churches plant churches, and for NAMB to have its right place in that. NAMB doesn't plant churches; churches plant churches. NAMB had good people working within a broken system. We're going to fix the system and continue to get good people."