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By Tobin Perry
CLEVELAND, Ohio – It typically takes a little more than 11 hours to drive from Jefferson City, Mo., to Cleveland, Ohio. But Dec. 30, 2011, was anything but typical. Through nearly 14 hours of continuous rainfall, Josh McGuire's moving truck sloshed and slipped through Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio to the church-planter-to-be's new Cleveland-area home.
McGuire was determined not to let the onslaught of water deter him. The North American Mission Board church planter and his young family had big plans in front of them. Josh, Jana -- who was then seven months pregnant -- and their 20-month-old son, Owen, were starting a new church in Euclid, Ohio (a Cleveland suburb). McGuire plans for the new church, which officially launched Sept. 9, to be a hub that’ll start a slew of other new churches in eastern Cleveland.
A year and a half ago, Cleveland wasn't even on McGuire's radar, despite the fact that God had already begun tugging his heart toward church planting. That's when the pastor of the Jefferson City, Mo., church where McGuire served as associate pastor dropped a copy of On Mission magazine—with the words Send North America in big, bold white type—on his desk. Although McGuire read most of the magazine, one quote by Cleveland church planter Alex Ennes stood out: "I want to reach Cleveland, not plant a church." The article went on to say that Ennes wanted to help and resource other church planters coming to the city.
"As my wife and I had been talking about planting a church, we had talked about that," McGuire said. "Going into church planting, we didn't want to just plant a church and have it stop there. From the beginning we wanted to have a world impact as we reproduce disciples of Christ. Through that would come new churches started in our area.”
Eventually, the couple sensed God was leading them to Euclid, a blue-collar community so close to Cleveland it's hard to distinguish where it ends and Cleveland begins. With the blessing and partnership of their church, Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City, the McGuires made plans to move to Euclid in just a few short months.
Perseverance would be in high demand for the family. Euclid had no Southern Baptist presence. God frequently brought to McGuire's mind Paul's words in Romans 15 about evangelizing "where Christ had not yet been named."
Impacted heavily by urban sprawl, Euclid is diverse on many fronts—including racially and socio-economically. The sprawl has left certain parts of the suburb with serious resource needs.
One conversation with a lifelong Euclid resident helped to cement McGuire's thoughts on how churches can help. A woman told McGuire that Euclid used to be a place where "everyone had each other's back" because "churches cared." But, the woman told McGuire, “churches don't care anymore.”
McGuire wants to change that. You can summarize McGuire's strategy to reach Euclid in one word that also happens to be the new church's name—serve.
"First and foremost our heart is to serve our Lord Jesus Christ, make Him known, and impact lostness," McGuire said. "But the second part of that is we want to serve in this community. We have a lot of really poor people in the community. We want to show people the church isn't just a big building that tries to get your tithes, but we want to give back to our community."
With the help of the Send North America: Cleveland team, McGuire has already brought teams of Southern Baptists from across the nation to help with a variety of community-service projects. Last summer alone, he had close to 1,000 volunteers in Euclid at various times. As McGuire shared that vision with secular community leaders in town, many have quickly jumped on board—offering to open up opportunities to the church—and the Southern Baptist volunteers who'll be joining him.
Also, as part of the church's initiative to "give back" to the community, McGuire expects—in addition to giving to the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®—the church will give 40 to 50 percent of its tithes and offerings back to Euclid through ministry and service projects.
McGuire plans for Serve Church: Euclid to be a "hub" for a variety of new churches in the community. As Serve Church gets started, it'll also be training indigenous church planters who'll start new congregations throughout Euclid and eastern Cleveland as part of Send North America: Cleveland, which has a goal of starting 100 church plants in the area in the next five years. McGuire says the church is already beginning to identify future church planters.
To learn more about the Send North America: Cleveland strategy and how your church can help planters like McGuire, visit namb.net/cleveland.
Tobin Perry is a writer for the North American Mission Board.
Date Created: 10/3/2012 12:41:15 PM
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