ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) -- Southern Baptists may access new online church planting maps for North America's largest, most influential and least-churched cities.
The North American Mission Board has posted digital maps highlighting current and planned church plants for 17 of the 30 cities targeted in its Send North America outreach. The maps are available at namb.net/cities
. Maps for the remaining cities will be posted as they are completed.
The online maps stem from NAMB President Kevin Ezell's longstanding desire to show Southern Baptists specific "dots on a map" where new churches are needed in Send North America cities.
"If a church wants to get involved in a specific city, you don't have to wonder where the needs are," Ezell said. "This is a very tangible way to see the needs and also the huge impact adding these churches will have on these cities."
The online maps show the locations of current church plants with red dots and the locations of future plants with blue dots. The future church locations have been identified by local strategy teams as needing church plants but lacking church planters. When a user clicks on a current or future church plant, they'll find its address and primary ethnicity.
Users can zoom out to get a big-picture view of the city's church planting needs or zoom in to take a look at the actual neighborhoods near current and future church plants. Also, by using Google Street View technology available on the maps, users can access street-level views of the area and conduct virtual prayerwalks through the neighborhood.
Shane Critser, NAMB's team leader for church mobilization, said churches can use the maps for advance looks at areas they want to target. He also hopes churches will use the maps to guide them as they pray for the cities. For prospective church planters, the street-level views can allow them to assess possibilities in a variety of cities without ever leaving their homes.
"It's like a virtual vision trip," Critser said. "You're not going to taste and feel it like if you were really there, but you get the visual and can see just how big the need is in the community."
Critser said local strategy teams of pastors, church planters and associational and state Southern Baptist leaders developed each of the maps by determining where and what kind of churches needed to be planted in their cities to penetrate lostness.
"We didn't ask the local strategy teams to tell us how many churches they could plant," Critser said. "We asked them, 'How many churches should we plant?' Those are two different questions. The first focuses on resources and asks them to come up with a plan based on that. We wanted them to look at the lostness and how many churches they had and decide how many churches they needed to penetrate the city's lostness."
Churches wishing to become involved in a specific Send North America city can send an email using that city's name, followed by @namb.net (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit namb.net, click "Mobilize Me" and indicate interest in a specific city.
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
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