Breaking the culture barrier in church planting
By Kima Jude
Tyrone Barnette started Peace Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia, almost 15
years ago with a vision for beginning not only a single congregation but also a
church that would plant other churches. “The Lord put in my heart when we first
started the church that we would change the way African Americans do church,”
Tyrone says. “There aren’t a lot of African-American churches that plant
His very first message outlined the shape of things to come: a church
committed to discipleship, outreach, and church planting. Less than 15 years
later, Peace Baptist has an average worship attendance of 1,750 and still
dreams of things to come, particularly in the area of church planting.
Situated in the heart of Decatur, only seven miles outside of Atlanta, Peace
Baptist takes its place in the urban inner city. They’ve developed several key
ministries—in addition to church planting—to meet community needs.
The community has witnessed the transformation of those seeking help from
Peace Baptist and views the church as a community resource. Tyrone’s philosophy
is that the church should be a resource for every part of public life. “We want
to have our finger on the pulse of the community.” An outreach-driven
church, Peace Baptist operates some 47 ministries.
Peace Baptist is a growing presence in Decatur and recently purchased
property about four miles away in an effort to accommodate its growing
congregation. But the eventual move won’t take them out of the heart of the
city: they’re leaving themselves behind. Instead of selling their current
building, they intend to make it a church-planting center.
While the church’s worship center will move to the new property, the old
building will house the church’s Urban Ministry Center. It will be used to
maintain its transitional housing and other ministries as well as several
churches simultaneously. As these missions grow and are able to move out on
their own, the building will continue to be used for new missions.
Churches currently meeting at Peace Baptist include a Caribbean Pacific
Indian church—the only congregation they know of in Georgia and possibly in the
U.S. with a membership of that descent. As they learned the history of this
people group, they discovered their common bond with African Americans.
Descended from India, these people were enslaved and brought to the Caribbean,
where the two cultures merged. In addition to giving them space to meet on
Sundays, Peace Baptist provides financial support and contributes other
A French-African congregation also worships in Peace Baptist’s fellowship
hall on Sundays. This church normally conducts services in French, but if
someone leaders don’t recognize walks in, they immediately switch to English to
make sure there’s no language barrier. Peace Baptist also is in discussions
with an Ethiopian church to see if it can be added to their storehouse.
Although Peace Baptist is planning to foster a church-planting hub, not all
the churches it sponsors will be onsite. Peace Baptist already has a track
record for sending pastors and people to plant churches in other places. One
assistant pastor, Robert Miller, planted Trinity Baptist Church in Ellenwood,
Georgia, sponsored through the local Baptist association. Peace financially
supported the church for three years.
Brian Bullard is about to make the leap from assistant pastor to church
planter. Community Fellowship Baptist Church will launch with Brian taking the
lead. The church’s minister of worship, Vincent Watson, also will plant New
Christian Center in Loganville, Georgia. Sending these men is part of Peace’s
plan to plant churches with DNA for planting more churches. “We’ve got to have
that in other areas of our city,” says Tyrone.
Tyrone, president of the African-American Fellowship of the Georgia Baptist
Convention, has high hopes that he’ll get all 127 of those churches involved in
church planting. “We’re trying to build a group of African-American churches
that will begin to plant and make a Kingdom impact in a big way.” The result
will be a Church Planting Institute at Peace under the umbrella of the Urban
Ministry Center. The way Tyrone sees it, church planting must be tied to
meeting needs for community development.
“I don’t want to just have a church that meets and kum-bah-yahs,” he says.
“We have to be missional.”
Knowing they are located in an area where more than 120 languages are spoken
within a three-mile radius, keeps church planting central to the church’s
mission. “We can’t do it all,” says Tyrone, acknowledging the church’s
limitations. “We’re still not able to reach everybody.” Instead, he believes
the way to cross cultures is not through Peace Baptist, but through the
churches Peace plants.
Kima Jude is a writer living in Beavercreek, Ohio. This article is
adapted from Pursuing the Mission of God in Church Planting available at no
charge at http://www.churchplantingvillage.net/resourcerequest.
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