500 new churches is Liberty Univ. goal

LYNCHBURG, Va. (BP)--Leaders at Liberty University have a vision to help plant some 500 new churches during the next five years, evidencing its commitment with a three-day church planting conference.

During chapel services attended by 5,000-plus Liberty students during the conference, several hundred made decisions to sign up for summer missionary and church planting internships across the United States.

Cosponsored and attended by representatives from 15 state Baptist conventions and the North American Mission Board, the Liberty conference aimed at recruiting students for real-life church planting opportunities this coming summer.

"Liberty wants to help students discover and examine their calling in this area of ministry," said David Wheeler, NAMB national missionary and associate director of Liberty's Church Planting Center, "and to gain a sense of the heartbeat and vision that Liberty has for church planting."

Wheeler said the conference will become an annual event at the Lynchburg, Va., campus.

Jonathan Falwell, Liberty's executive vice president for spiritual affairs, said, "Our time together was extremely productive as we discussed strategies for literally saturating our nation with new church plants.

"This is something my dad [the late Jerry Falwell] was passionate about and it's something that I'm passionate about as well. Over the next few months, we will begin implementing some of the ideas that were shared [during the conference]."

Speaking during a campus-wide convocation, Ergun Caner, president of Liberty's seminary and graduate school, shared his life-changing experience as a summer missionary in Wisconsin during his college days.

"Church planting should be the driving force and goal toward which every local church reaches," Caner said. "Church planting is essential to the furtherance of the Gospel because it is the local church to which God has given the mandate to carry forth the message of Jesus Christ.

"It only makes sense that the strategy for getting the Gospel to a lost and dying world would be through the local church reproducing itself," Caner said.

Steve Canter, a NAMB church planting consultant, said, "We at NAMB hope the long-term effect of this emphasis is that as students serve on summer mission projects in church plants, God will work in their lives and then, after graduation, they would serve as church planters or part of a church-planting team out in the state conventions."

Representatives of state Baptist conventions and other ministries spoke in Liberty classrooms and staffed 25 booths in Liberty's DeMoss Hall during the Jan. 30-Feb. 1 conference, enabling SBC representatives to recruit students and share information on church planting, summer missionary internships or missions trips.

State conventions participating were Maryland/Delaware, New England, Alaska, Illinois, Missouri, California, South Carolina, Penn/Jersey, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, Nevada, Minnesota/Wisconsin, North Carolina, Indiana, West Virginia and Northwest.

Mickey Noah is a writer for the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.

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