ALPHARETTA, Ga. – The North American Mission Board set forth a bold evangelistic target within a year of its birth in 1997. The NAMB's goal of doubling the number of SBC churches to more than 100,000 by 2020, illustrates the importance of church planning its mission.
The reasoning behind this monumental mission is to reach people more effectively.
Richard Harris, NAMB's vice president for church planting noted that "statistically that churches which are 10 years old or older average 2.5 baptisms per 100 resident members," Harris said. "However, churches 10 years old or younger average 10.8 baptisms per 100 resident members. It doesn't take a crystal ball to see that if you're going to evangelize North America, church planting is essential."
According the Harris, meeting this "God sized goal" will be possible through the "supernatural movement of God." Harrison said, "We believe that's what he can do and wants to do. And he can use us as well as other evangelical Christians to do it."
These newly planted churches will look less like traditional Southern Baptist Churches. Instead, there will be emphasis in congregating around homes, schools, or shopping centers. The biggest target for these new churches will be in the large cities of North America.
NAMB's Strategic Focus Cities program has already spawned church-planting movements in Phoenix, Chicago, Las Vegas, Boston, Seattle and Philadelphia. More than 230 new churches have been planted in these metropolises since 2000.
"With a kingdom vision, an evangelistic passion and a multiplication mindset of church planting, the results are speaking for themselves," said Gary Frost, NAMB's vice president of strategic partnerships.
As part of the SFC strategy, large churches in one part of the country are planting churches in cities hundreds and even thousands of miles away. In Seattle and Philadelphia, SFC sites for 2002, dozens of ethnic churches are being started among Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and African Americans.
The NAMB has also undertaken measures to plant churches in Canada. Many of Canada's Provinces such as New Brunswick (pop. 755,000) and Newfoundland (pop. 541,000) do not have a single Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists (CCSB) church. Only 13 of Canada's 25 largest cities have Southern Baptist churches. Thirty-one cities with populations of 10,000 to 20,000 have no evangelical witness of any kind. Consequently, NAMB has set a goal of planting 1,000 churches and baptizing 100,000 new believers in Canada by the year 2020.
These bold church planting goals will be supplemented by rigorous recruitment and training of church planters. The Nehemiah Project, established by the NAMB, seeks to ensure the qualification of the leaders. NAMB missionaries at each of the six Southern Baptist Congregational seminaries will lead programs where the prospective planters will be taught in classrooms and be assigned to shadow local mentors.
Since 1997, more than 500 church planter interns have been appointed. However, the NAMB encourages the recruitment of lay people to support the massive task at hand.
"Laypeople are the crucial component," said Van Kicklighter, NAMB's congregational leader development manager for lay church planters. "We need more laypeople who will step up to the plate and say we will leave our comfort zone and help impact a people group that hasn't been touched.
These newly planted churches, whether they be lead by clergy or lay people, strives toward reaching peoples from all backgrounds. NAMB partners with seminaries to offer approximately 150 Contextual Leadership Development (CLD) centers that equip Christian leaders with skills and methods that are effective and meaningful within their culture.
Of the new Southern Baptist church starts last year, some 40 percent were classified as language and ethnic congregations. The gospel currently is presented in about 110 languages in more than 7,000 ethnic congregations meeting all over North America during any given week.
In many cases churches intentionally plant congregations unlike themselves to meet the needs of a changing population. In Seattle, for instance, a Southern Baptist Korean congregation is sponsoring a new church start for Native Americans.
These strategies and resources will, according to Richard Harris, supplement the church planting movements of the NAMB.
"Healthy Christians should be reproducing other Christians through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit just like healthy churches should be reproducing other churches," Harris said.
"When God shows us a need, he has already met that need if we will get on his agenda."
By Pauline J.