Class of 2017 church plants proclaim Jesus, change lives
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) -- One October morning in 2017, a young lady visited a brand new church in Montréal. She didn't have a positive view of Christianity, but something struck a chord with her that morning.
She spent time after La Chapelle's Sunday services in the church's one-on-one ministry which is designed to facilitate conversations about Christianity. She gave her life to Christ and was baptized the following month.
La Chapelle in Ahuntsic is the second church to be birthed out of La Chapelle in Montréal, which itself was planted only five years ago. The young church averages between 350-400 people, and already nine people have been baptized.
Each year Southern Baptists start hundreds of new congregations across North America. Most receive logistical and financial assistance from outside sources. Those sources include sending or supporting churches, state Baptist conventions and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) through its Send Network.
As the national entity with the assignment to assist Southern Baptists with church planting, NAMB offers all Southern Baptist planters membership in its Planter and Spouse Care Network. NAMB also provides funding, training, coaching and other resources for many church plants and planters.
"We are incredibly grateful for every new church that was started last year and for the missionaries who are leading them," NAMB president Kevin Ezell said.
Bridging generations in Colorado
Trailhead Church launched in January of 2017 in Wellington, Co. One of the church's first baptisms was a 72-year-old man named Gene who attended their final preview service in 2016. After months of discipleship, church planting missionary John Richardson baptized Gene on Sept. 24, 2017.
"Gene hasn't missed but one service since he first came," Richardson said, "and he's become a regular volunteer and encourager in our church."
Since Trailhead's launch, they have baptized 17 new believers and are currently averaging 157 in weekly worship attendance and 102 people in small groups.
A church for the campus and for the community
Stevenson emphasized the importance of the North American Mission Board and the Southern Baptist community.
"I just had my sixth child, my son Jude, who was born with a congenital heart defect," he said. "Within 12 hours of tweeting about it, Micah [Millican, NAMB's director of planter and spouse care] reached out to me. Then Kevin Ezell retweeted the tweet, and I felt like family when people started praying for us."
NAMB church planting strategy explained
Through Send Network, NAMB emphasizes to church planters that their Southern Baptist Convention partners -- churches, associations, state conventions and entities -- operate like a family.
The Send Network team also regularly finds ways to improve its strategy so that the Southern Baptist churches NAMB helps plant get off to a solid start, are built to last, and are designed to multiply.
Since 2010, NAMB has restructured the way it counts church plants to better track and assess progress. Churches that newly cooperate with the SBC are separated out from the annual count. Every new church plant is required to have an identification number to ensure that churches will be included only once in NAMB's tally.
The updates and improvements, coupled with NAMB's more rigorous assessment process for planters, have led to a drop in the number of churches planted since 2010. The changes have allowed for increased accountability in Southern Baptist church planting efforts. The result has been church planters who are better equipped for ministry over the long haul. Overall, 81 percent of churches planted since 2010 are still active in the 2016 Annual Church Profile report.
Since an average of 900 churches die or otherwise drop off Southern Baptist roles each year, Ezell noted Southern Baptists need to plant around 1,200 new churches annually.
"We need more qualified church planters," Ezell said. "A lot of our work right now is focused on helping churches identify and develop leaders in their church who might someday feel called to plant. There is a huge harvest, and we all need to pray for more workers."