Most Christians have a solid idea of what evangelism is, but to many of them
church planting is something of a mystery. It's a task that can seem daunting
and on that many Christians feel should be left to the professionals.
On Mission recently conducted a roundtable discussion with Southern Baptist
church planters across the country to gain insight into their mission and to
discover how anyone with a desire to help can join the work.
Linda Bergquist, California The San Francisco Bay Area is
immensely challenging and immensely spiritually alive. It is a place that
celebrates diversity of all kinds. It is an edge place--on the Pacific Rim--a
sending base of cultural experience to the nation and to the world. It is
postmodern and on the very edge of colliding cultures and worldviews--a
romantic, wonderful, and yet morally destitute city.
Frank Cornelius, Colorado Deer Trail is in the eastern
plains of Colorado. Part of our mission effort is focused along the I-70
corridor east of Denver. This is a very high growth area. Right now much of
this area is rural, but that is changing rapidly. We are projected to double or
triple in population in the next 10-15 years. For several years, the state
population has increased at the rate of 2,000 per week.
Kathryn Durocher, Georgia I am a Church Starter Strategist
working in the eastern part of Georgia. I work with 11 associations. The
largest town in my territory is Augusta, so most of my region is small towns
and very rural. What is unique about this area is that these smaller regions
are getting excited about church planting. My associations are interested in
starting contemporary churches, apartment ministries and mobile home park
Dennis E. Hampton, Nebraska My area (the Sandhills of
Nebraska) consists of 20 counties in North Central Nebraska where cattle
ranching and farming are the primary livelihoods. The area has no
industry--only agriculture--and is very sparsely populated. The remote
lifestyle and sparse population make it impossible to consider starting
typical, traditional churches with salaried pastors, buildings and programs.
Home Bible Fellowship and the lay-led Rural Sunday school have been the most
fruitful models of reproducing churches.
Frank Miller, Pennsylvania This association of churches
covers 4,300 square miles, including Philadelphia. We began in 1982 with 31
churches and missions and now have 121. There are 4.3 million people in our
area, and most don't have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We seek
to begin churches where there is a scarcity of churches or where there are
numbers of people not being reached by a church. We also try to reach into
other language and culture groups without a strong Christian witness.
Linda Bergquist, California.
I started seminary two years after becoming a Christian. At the suggestion of
my pastor (now the church starting professor at Golden Gate Baptist Theological
Seminary) I became involved in a church start within two weeks of beginning
seminary. I helped start a house church and a Cambodian church while in
seminary. Then the church where I was saved--the church that provided a
scholarship for me to attend seminary--called me back to serve on staff as a
missions minister. Together we planted about a church a year for eight
Frank Cornelius, Colorado. Missions became a way of life at
age 12. My family went on a mission trip to Brazil and it changed my outlook on
life. When my dad retired, my parents became Mission Service Corps volunteers
and worked with several churches in Texas. After that they came to Colorado and
planted the church where I am now the minister of missions. My wife, Karen, was
also involved in mission trips in high school and summer missions in college. When we had the opportunity
to move to Colorado to start churches, we jumped at the chance.
Kathryn Durocher, Georgia. I am motivated to be involved in
church planting, because it is one of the most effective means of winning
people to Christ. I have been involved in starting congregational Bible studies
in multihousing communities for the past five years. I have found multihousing
to be a vast mission field full of people who do not know Jesus Christ. My eyes
have been opened to the need for people to go on site and start Bible studies
in the communities. Apartment dwellers tend to be 95 percent unchurched. This
statistic is what motivates me in my work.
Robert Goette, Illinois. Sixteen years ago while I was
studying missiology in Korea, I was challenged to select a people group from
the United States and develop a strategy to reach them for Christ. I selected
English-speaking Korean Americans because they were my mirror image--Koreans
who had grown up in the United States while I, an Anglo-American, was raised in
Korea. I saw God raising up a new people group who needed a new style of church
where they would feel at home. In January 1984 we started Grace Baptist Church
in the Chicago area.
Cato Brooks, Indiana. I
attended a Key Church conference in Dallas, Texas, several years ago. We were
challenged that unless churches were planting new churches, Christians would
never reach this continent or the world for Christ. It gave us the vision to
begin. In the past five years we've planted 11 new churches.
Dennis E. Hampton, Nebraska. I was called to church
planting as a boy in Royal Ambassadors when I was 14. In 1963, I attended a
Home Missions Week conference at Ridgecrest, North Carolina, and publicly
declared this. I prepared throughout high school, college and seminary, and
have never left the missionary calling. I am motivated by the confidence that
God's plan for evangelization of this world can only be accomplished by the
planting of indigenous, small group-congregations that multiply and practice
simple, reproducible leadership and ministry.
Frank Miller, Pennsylvania. I realized early in my ministry
that new church starts reached people existing churches didn't. There are many
reasons for that, but the reasons don't matter--only reaching more people
matters. I began as a church pastor in Tennessee. I served on the associational
missions committee and then became an associational missionary 28 years ago.
I've been involved in church planting ever since.
Linda Bergquist The biggest challenges here are how to
evangelize and congregationalize post-moderns--second generation unchurched
people. That coupled with the outrageous cost of living--especially in San
Francisco--makes it tough.
Frank Cornelius The greatest challenge we face would
definitely be the large number of unchurched people. We know that 90-95 percent
of the people in the area are unchurched. It is not uncommon to find people
30-40 years old who do not know who Jesus is, who have never seen a Bible, who
have never been in a church for any purpose, and who think all religious groups
are the same. It is not uncommon for Southern Baptists to be seen as a
Kathryn Durocher Some of the greatest challenges and
struggles are against other churches that feel threatened by new churches.
Another struggle is finding leaders to head up mission efforts. Finding
churches and associations that have set aside money for new work and are
willing to sponsor the new work is also challenging.
Robert Goette When we started Grace
Baptist Church, the second-generation wave of Korean immigrants was cresting at
15 years of age. To start a church with an average member age of 15 was
extremely challenging and rewarding at the same time. Finances, inexperience
and a high turnover rate were a few of the challenges. But they were offset by
the excitement of seeing God change lives.
Cato Brooks Training and preparing people for the work.
This is a new concept for most of our people. Many believe the only way to
reach people is to grow larger, but the best way for a church to grow its
outreach is through multiplication.
Dennis E. Hampton My greatest challenges are distance and
time. I may travel 50,000 miles a year. Rural people are extremely relational
and will not be reached, won or congregated by media and electronic means. But
once local people are trained there is little likelihood they will move away
and a high likelihood that they will catch the multiplication vision.
Linda Bergquist The Bridge started a year ago and is still
growing. It's the first successful English-speaking church plant by the
Southern Baptist Convention here in 34 years. It's a multicultural church that
meets close to San Francisco University.
Frank Cornelius When we first established a work in the
town of Kiowa, we were having a weekly children's Bible club after school. I
remember one young lady who beamed with excitement the first time she was able
to say the books of the Old Testament. But more important, she accepted Christ
Another success has been the chapel ministry in a local truck stop. God has
used that ministry to provide worship and fellowship for drivers. Several have
had life-changing experiences there. It has provided an opportunity to make a
difference not only locally, but literally across the nation.
Kathryn Durocher For the past three years, my husband,
Steven, and I lived in a high-rise apartment in downtown Atlanta. We lived
there with the intent of starting a ministry from the inside. There are more
than 700 residents living in the upscale building. When we moved, we were able
to leave the ministry with a woman from within the ministry. She became a
leader though she had never led a Bible study. She willingly took over the
responsibility and has been successful. The study has doubled in size.
Joe Hernandez, NAMB One of the best success stories relates
to my first church plant. After four months of working a neighborhood and
having minimal response, a freak ice storm literally froze everything, and many
folks were unprepared. I was able to gather some supplies--food, water,
blankets, medicine--and take them to the families in the neighborhood. Everyone
appreciated the effort. The next Sunday, I found myself with about 20 adults.
The attendance continued to grow over the next few weeks. This break in the
frozen hearts came as a consequence of a ministry need and was viewed as
genuine love for a community. This new church grew to be one of the largest
churches in the city.
Robert Goette Recently, one of the church planters and I
were enjoying God's divine humor. He came to know Christ after being caught
selling drugs. After a few years of trials and appeals, he had to interrupt his
seminary studies to go to prison. Now he's out and planting a church in Chicago
that happens to be attracting a disproportionate number of lawyers, district
attorneys and FBI agents.
Cato Brooks Emmitt Webb and his wife went to Evansville,
Indiana, to help a church that was dying. In fact, it really was too late.
Emmitt started with two people. Now the church has more than 200 members, and
Emmitt has been elected president of the region's Southern Baptist Ministers
Dennis E. Hampton One exciting success would
be the Home Fellowship begun in Knox County. A couple accepted Christ two years
prior at a rodeo chapel service, but there had been no follow-up. Using a young
man I was mentoring, we began the new Home Fellowship. The first week there
were 14 present; the second week, 18; the third week, about 24. This small
farmhouse had no more space in the living room to accommodate people. I asked
the host to pray with me about what to do--assuming we should begin a second
group. He opposed that idea, stating that these people were not saved and were
there because they were comfortable at his house (which was true and wise). We
agreed to pray for a week and share God's leading with each other the next
week. When I walked into the house I was surprised to see a wall knocked out of
the bedroom that adjoined the living room. In amazement I asked, "What have you
done?" His reply was quiet and profound, "After praying for several days, it
became apparent to me that reaching people for Jesus is much more important
than having a fourth wall on the bedroom--so I knocked it out. Don't you
agree?" I did agree and in the months that followed I saw almost that entire
group come to Christ. We saw two more Home Fellowships and a rural Sunday
school begun from that group alone--all within the next 18 months.
Frank Miller In 1998 one of our African American pastors
told me that he was considering a new church start. We worked with him as he
went through the various steps. He anticipated beginning with 20 to 30 people.
My wife and I went to the first service and could hardly get in for the crush
of people. In the following months, the membership has increased to about 250
people. Many have been become Christians.
Linda Bergquist Multiplication is exponential planting. We
need to reproduce growth in every sphere of church life--not just measurables
like new believers, new disciples, new leaders--but also intangibles like
reproduction of Christian character and Christian community. I am finding that
if we focus on reproducing leaders and teams with a passion, they will plant
churches somewhere, somehow.
Frank Cornelius Historically, a church has gone out and
started a mission congregation and then that was it. In the multiplication
system, a church begins a congregation that begins a congregation that begins a
congregation and so on. The whole idea is based on starting healthy,
Kathryn Durocher Multiplication is being able to turn
something over to another leader who has been raised up so you can move on to
start something else. Multiplication involves starting new churches
instead of simply adding more to an existing church.
Joe Hernandez My hope is that we would not only understand
multiplication but also practice it. I like the way Mark Clifton, church
planting leader in Kansas-Nebraska, stated it: "We should help every church
discover that in its DNA, there is a gene which exists for reproduction of
itself into new churches." We will indeed see that the rapid expansion of the
Kingdom through multiplication is by all means faster than adding churches one
Robert Goette Multiplication is a church that starts
church-planting churches. We have too many churches on the pill.
Dennis E. Hampton Multiplication is God's New Testament
pattern--it is stamped indelibly on the imprint of the first century church.
They didn't see the church as an institution to add size to. They saw each
small house church as a true church. It's very difficult to reconcile much of
what we have called success in the church growth movement of this century with
the multiplication plan we find in scripture.
Linda Bergquist We must begin with a team that values
diversity. The leaders must hold it as a high value and see themselves as
multicultural people. Every believer must walk in the church for the first time
and know that every position of leadership would be available to them if God
calls them there.
Frank Cornelius We live in an area that is predominantly
Anglo (99 percent), but as growth occurs this will change. The challenge of an
ethnic mix is in the future for us.
Robert Goette We've found it difficult in transitioning a
church that is predominantly one ethnic group to become broadly multiethnic.
But we have seen it happen very naturally when the core group of a new church
plant is diverse.
Frank Cornelius The church is the people. Too often the
building is seen as the church. The church can still be the body of Christ
whether it meets in a school, storefront or restaurant. We have found that not
having a building can be a good thing. It forces you out into the community,
exactly where the church should be anyway.
Robert Goette It's the group of people committed to God and
to each other.
Cato Brooks The church is a body that should minister to
the whole person. It should minister to every facet of a person's life.
Dennis E. Hampton We define the church as a group of people
who are first committed to Christ and obedience to His Word, and secondly
committed to each other. Here in Nebraska a handshake still means everything.
Written covenants, by-laws and mission statements are not widely accepted.
People come to Christ most often in the context of a small, accountable, group
Bible study where they already had some relationship. Their standard of success
is not numbers in attendance or buildings erected, but obedience to Christ's
will, His Word and multiplication of both leaders and new churches.
Linda Bergquist There are four things, but the most
important is prayer. The soil here is rocky. People could do region-by-region
virtual prayer walks on computers. Next people could come here and be part of
the teams that start churches of all kinds. Finally send on mission young
people to seminary at Golden Gate to be involved in planting while they're
Frank Cornelius Training. New congregations face the
challenge of a lack of trained leaders to be teachers, worship leaders,
committee members and church officers. We know we cannot import the people to
fill these positions. What would be helpful is to have laypeople who are
experienced in church leadership to come and stay one to six months and help
train leaders in new congregations.
Kathryn Durocher Laypeople can pray that more church
planters will be sent to Georgia. We need more laborers. We also need more
churches willing to sponsor new churches. Please pray for the sponsoring
churches as well.
Robert Goette Taking the time to pray for and understand
the challenges of the second generation of immigrants (not from a European
background) who are very "Americanized" in their thinking and values, and yet
are not embraced by Americans of European descent because of the shade of their
Cato Brooks By coming to help. Sending mission groups to
work new areas--to do the groundwork. We have a goal over the next five years
to plant a church in every 12-block area of Gary, Indiana. We're planning a
12-step church for addiction recovery and are willing to consider any
God-honoring avenue to reach people.
Dennis E. Hampton Prayer. Legitimate intercession. Some
might come here (in very small groups or as a vacationing family) to prayer
walk in new targeted areas and un-entered counties.
Frank Miller Pray specifically for our ministry. Volunteer
yourself to go where needed on vacation or in retirement and assist the
church-starting efforts being carried out. Continue as a church to be faithful
contributors to the cooperative program and the Annie Armstrong Easter
Offering. Find out what the needs are and commit to doing what you and your
church can to meet those needs.
Linda Bergquist God is moving here. This is the time. We
sense that it is very spiritually alive here. It's a good place for those who
want to be where God is doing something amazing.
Frank Cornelius When people hear about a church that has a
minister of missions and is planting several churches, they naturally assume
that it is a large congregation. That is not true in our case. We have a
congregation of about 40 people. God has used us to start four new
congregations in the past 2 1/2 years. We believe He is leading us to start a
couple more this year. God has always provided the needed resources and has
never been a day late. A church does not have to be large to be useful. A
church of any size can be used to expand the kingdom as long as it is obedient
to God's leading.
Joe Hernandez In our call to reach people for Christ by
planting churches we are committed to providing nurture systems, including
prayer (every church plant will have teams of intercessors praying specifically
for each church plant), mentoring (experienced church planters will walk
alongside new church planters) and peer groups (church planters who gather for
fellowship, prayer and skill development exercises). We also envision churches
calling out people to serve as members of church planting teams. In the end the
multiplication of churches will call for all Southern Baptists--ministers and
laity--to share in church planting activities.
Cato Brooks The most rewarding thing is to see
disenfranchised people restored to a sense of worth, a sense of community, a
sense of purpose. Now they are part of the solution.
Dennis E. Hampton I really want readers to see the reality
of our need to develop strategies to reach the multiplied millions of ag-based
peoples in places like Nebraska and Kansas, and North and South Dakota,
Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, Colorado and Iowa.
To discover how you can beon
missionand assist your congregation with church
planting efforts, call NAMB's Church Planting Group at 770-410-6000 or visit
the NAMB website atwww.namb.net.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC