Partner Church Shares About Cleveland Vision Trip

Sevier Heights 

By Neal Thornton
Pastor of Connections 
Sevier Heights Baptist Church 
Knoxville, TN 

Condition of Cleveland: 

            I recently visited Cleveland as part of a vision trip from Sevier Heights Baptist Church in Knoxville, TN.  During our time in the city, we were accompanied by Pastor Alex Ennes of Gateway Church Cleveland and Jeff Calloway NAMB Church Planting Catalyst and of the PlantOhio church planting school.  Our team met with Alex and Jeff to gain a better sense of Cleveland and the people who called the city home.  Pastor Alex and Jeff took us on a tour which allowed us to see everything from Cleveland Browns Stadium to some of the oldest neighborhoods in Cuyahoga County. 

            In an effort to support the NAMB initiative “Send North America”, Sevier Heights has been led to partner with Cleveland area churches and Ohio Baptists to fulfill the Great Commission.  It’s no mystery that Cleveland is vastly different from Knoxville, yet it is located within an easy day’s travel.   One statistic has Knoxville atop Cleveland with almost 40 times the number of Southern Baptist churches per capita.  Going from what is considered the “Bible Belt” to an area that is statistically considered and “unreached city” was very overwhelming for our team.  It’s tough to realize that there are cities in our own country that have not been reached with the gospel of Christ. 

            As we toured the city and met with locals, we saw Cleveland as a city with great potential.  Clevelanders love their city despite the economic downturn and the disappointing sports seasons.  Though Cleveland may be seen as a city on hard times, the gospel is able to turn the city around and bring life to a lost people.  Jesus says in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  This is the promise we carry into the city.  Cleveland needs to be loved.  Cleveland needs everlasting life.


Need of Cleveland: 

            As we thought about the desperate needs of Cleveland, the church was an obvious answer.  Throughout the history of Christendom, God has used the church to spread the gospel and bring people into a relationship with Him.  If Cleveland needed only one thing, that would be the presence of the church.  The church has been the primary vehicle for reaching cities across the world with the gospel of Christ.  Clevelanders need Christ.

            Sometimes it’s easy to forget the overwhelming presence of the church in the southern United States.  When traveling to Cleveland, we saw a city were the church was difficult to find. Though there have been successful church plants such as Gateway Church, God is calling Southern Baptists to lead a gospel resurgence in the city through a church planting initiative.  The gospel is clear and the commission is great.  Would you consider helping Cleveland as God leads?  Pray for Cleveland.  Go to Cleveland.  Love Cleveland, all for the sake of the gospel.


Future of Cleveland: 

            While on our two-day vision trip with Alex and Jeff, we had the opportunity to meet with local government and business personnel.  We visited sites which have been slotted as potential church plants.  Surprising to us, Cleveland is very open to the idea of planting churches. 

            Our team took some time one afternoon to think about the future of Cleveland.  One key component that seemed so obvious to us was the need for Christian leadership within the city.  Many churches are hurting and need to be encouraged.  Through local and national efforts, we pray that Cleveland churches can flourish and will be equipped to do God’s work in their city.

            The door is wide open in Cleveland.  The locals are praying for their city and they need help.  Much groundwork has been done to usher in mission teams to help local church plants.  Several churches across the south have committed to adopt Cleveland as a city of mission through financial support and by sending teams periodically.  College students and young adults can make a large impact on Cleveland.  The city’s downtown is filled with college graduates and young professionals.  Please begin to pray for Cleveland as God may have you in mind to serve Him there.

            Cleveland is considered part of our “Judea” under the Sevier Heights Acts 1:8 strategy.  Located within a day’s travel, mission teams can serve in Cleveland with ease while making a great impact on the city.  Please join other Southern Baptists as we fulfill the Great Commission in Cleveland, Ohio.  

Date Created: 1/23/2012 10:41:42 AM

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