WILLISTON, N.D. (BP) -- Unemployment is nearly nonexistent in the boomtown of Williston, N.D., enriched by a flurry of drilling in the Bakken oil field that reaches into Montana and Canada.
"I believe God is moving us towards becoming a missionary outpost for this entire region."
-- Pastor Ashley Olinger
Schools and the housing market are hard-pressed to accommodate the many families and workers the economy has drawn to Williston, where the estimated population of 30,000 is more than double what it was two years ago.
There's only one Southern Baptist church in town.
Ashley Olinger, its pastor, sees in the changing landscape an opportunity to plant churches but says he will need resources from across the Southern Baptist Convention to respond to God's call.
"I'm a truck driver from Northern Canada trying to wrap my head around such a spiritual opportunity. I don't even know how to describe it," said Olinger, who pastors Cornerstone First Baptist Church in Williston. "It's daunting, exciting, and I guess my greatest fear is we drop the ball and miss the opportunity that God has placed in front of us."
Olinger's not speaking of a short-term evangelistic outreach but an opportunity to plant several vibrant churches in the area that will flourish from an estimated 50 years of Bakken drilling.
"I believe God is moving us towards becoming a missionary outpost for this entire region," Olinger said. "Ministry goes beyond chaplaincy to single guys, to family ministry, to youth ministry. Church planting and long-term discipleship is a huge, huge part of it.
"I believe that God will not only allow churches to be planted across this region, but those that are here temporarily, we'll be able to send back to wherever they're from, hopefully as missionaries back to their hometowns."
That's why the church planter who came to Williston from Canada more than two years ago is corralling support by hosting a Bakkan Oil Field Summit Nov. 12-14, hoping to attract partners and support for church planting.
"In our region, there are only two or three of our [SBC] churches located up here," he said. "The next closest one [to Williston] is 50 miles away, the church in Watford City. The next closest would be in Minot, which is 100 miles away."
Olinger presents Williston as a rich field for biblical harvest. Read More