870-mile connection boosts church planter
BRIDGEPORT, Texas (BP) -- First Baptist Church in Bridgeport, Texas, needed a new missions opportunity; 870 miles away, Matt Dye needed a partnering church to help spread the Gospel in underserved downtown Atlanta.
Send North America -- the North American Mission Board’s church planting and evangelism strategy -- connected the two. Nearly a year later, the Texas church has a partnership with Dye in a strategic place in North American missions.
“I really wanted us to get involved in something new and exciting,” said First Baptist pastor David Burrows. “I came across Send North America and thought it was something we should do. I wanted to see us get involved in some new works in new places where we may not be able to go but we could help those who were there.”
A NAMB mobilizer connected Burrows to Jim Haskell, Send North America’s Atlanta coordinator, at the 2012 Send North America Conference, and Haskell then connected Burrows with Dye.
“I had done mission trips in Atlanta before, in the late 1990s, when I was a pastor at First Baptist Church of Laredo (Texas),” Burrows said. “I knew it was different than a lot of other southern cities. There were a lot of different ethnicities in the city. I figured there was probably a much bigger need there than people realized. I also figured many other churches would want to go to the other regions -- and not many would be interested in the South.”
Atlanta is one of 32 “Send Cities” NAMB is emphasizing in its effort to help reach areas of North America with the greatest spiritual lostness and the smallest number of Southern Baptist churches.
Haskell encouraged Burrows to take a vision tour of Atlanta and see underserved places church planters are targeting and places local Baptist leaders hoped to engage in the future. The tour confirmed many of Burrows’ pre-trip assumptions about the spiritual needs in pockets of the city. He also met church planters, including Dye, who were passionate about sharing the Gospel among people in need of churches.
Dye (@dye_matthew) had come from Kentucky to plant a church in downtown Atlanta. Burrows was struck by the spiritual needs Dye encountered there.
“He meets people and walks and talks with them,” Burrows said. “Every time he meets someone, he asks them about church.” Hardly anyone Dye has met is attending church, the Texas pastor said.
After the trip First Baptist Bridgeport decided to partner with Dye by providing future missions teams, prayer and resources for the young church plant, called M28 Church (a reference to Matthew 28). In March, First Baptist spent time with the Dyes while hosting them in Bridgeport. Burrows and Dye subsequently attended an Atlanta-area church conference. The Texas church is continuing to look for ways to invest in the church Dye is planting.
“If you’re going to make that kind of sacrifice and leave the stability of pastoring a church in Kentucky for eight years and you’re going to risk everything you have to start a church where there is none, that definitely appealed to us,” Burrows said. “We wanted to be a part of what he is doing.”
Prestonwood Baptist Church near Dallas will host the 2013 NAMB Send North America Conference July 29-30. Participants can be involved in unique tracks for pastors, church planters, worship leaders, students, lay leaders, women and others. Church leaders will have numerous opportunities to connect with like-minded leaders from across North America.
“Connecting with Matt was a good connection for us,” Burrows said. “We never would have done that without the Send North America Conference.”
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.