ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Jody sat in a park in a Denver suburb, contemplating her life as a believer and sensing the need to go deeper in her Christian faith. She did not know what steps to take, though, so she closed her eyes to pray and asked God to send someone to help her.
Shortly after she opened her eyes, there was Send Network church planting missionary Justin McKay. He was at the park promoting a soccer camp, shared about the church they were preparing to plant and asked her if she knew Jesus.
Jody said yes and became a part of the launch team for The Local Church, which has seen 21 people make decisions for Christ and baptized five since their official launch in February of last year.
“God’s providence has brought us here to help people in this city who are far from God, who want to know God but don’t know how to,” said McKay. “Jody’s is one story of many people we’ve impacted.”
McKay and The Local Church represent one of the hundreds of churches Southern Baptists planted in 2022 that have already started seeing fruit just one year into their ministries.
All told, Southern Baptists planted 745 churches in 2022, 106 of which were replants. There were also 46 campuses launched and 126 churches that newly affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, for a total of 917 new congregations added to the convention in 2022.
The 745 “Class of 2022” church plants officially elevated the total number of churches Southern Baptists have planted since 2010 to more than 10,000.
“We are always excited to see an increase in churches planted year over year,” said North American Mission Board (NAMB) president, Kevin Ezell. “But our focus remains on the quality of the churches planted, which is why we’re more grateful that the four-year survivability rate remains strong. Our goal is to see churches planted that impact their communities for years and multiply to reach more communities where churches are needed.”
One church that has been focused on multiplication is Life Community Church in the Boston area. In 2022, they sent out missionary Noah Madden to launch their third congregation, this one focused on serving the community of Weymouth, Mass.
One of the challenges facing their sector of Greater Boston, Madden said, is a sense of hopelessness and drug addiction. While Madden’s church was serving in the community in 2020, a man named Eric began to help, and addiction played a part of his story.
“Through that process, Eric gave his life to Jesus and jumped in as part of our core team,” said Madden. “He was a brand-new Christian who has taken on responsibility and leadership — gradually, of course. Now, he is leading our recovery ministry in Weymouth.”
The successes of churches like The Local Church and Life Community Church are the fruit of Southern Baptist investment in starting new churches in cities and neighborhoods where gospel-proclaiming churches are sparse.
“We could not be more grateful for the way our churches have rallied around the mission of church planting in recent years,” said Vance Pitman, president of Send Network, NAMB’s church planting arm. “As we join in God’s mission to reach the nations, churches are engaging communities with the gospel, making disciples and seeing churches planted as a result.”
One of the ways NAMB has expanded church planting efforts in recent years has been through the development of Send Network’s more close-knit partnerships with Southern Baptist state conventions. The Florida Baptist Convention was one of the first to start incorporating Send Network’s processes of training, coaching and care to enhance their church planting efforts.
“We are excited about churches planting churches in Florida. The partnership with NAMB and the Florida Baptist Convention supporting churches as they plant has been amazing,” said Tommy Green, executive director of Florida Baptists. “We are averaging 70-plus church plants a year in Florida. The Send Network Florida model has been helpful in the sustainability and survivability of the church plants, and church planting continues to be a priority for the Florida Baptist Convention.”
NAMB’s primary ministry focus has been on cities and regions outside of the South, focusing intentionally on areas where the Christian and Southern Baptist influence has been weakest. Since 2010, church plants have accounted for nearly a quarter, 23 percent, of the baptisms in non-South states.
“There are 34 million lost souls in California who are headed to an eternal punishment without God’s saving grace,” said Pete Ramirez, executive director of the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC). “This is the reason why church planting will continue to be a priority in California.”
In September of 2022, California Baptists also entered into a greater partnership with Send Network.
“It’s a blessing to see how Southern Baptists have come alongside us through Send Network and the CSBC to provide a support system of coaching, training and financial backing, among other things,” Ramirez said. “It is making a difference in producing sustainable, thriving church plants. Together we can celebrate these positive outcomes that are bringing people to saving faith.”
For the mission to continue moving forward, churches of all sizes are needed, said Denver-area church planter McKay.
“I’m from Alabama, and my heart and passion is to see churches in the South be passionately engaged in the West. Every church in the SBC — small, medium or large — has a part in church planting. Some of the largest givers to The Local Church are small, rural churches in Alabama,” said McKay. “I want to encourage every church to remember they have a part and a place in planting churches in the West. So, I want to see the South awaken to planting more churches all over this region — from Montana to New Mexico — and our church is a testimony of churches awaking to that opportunity.”
Published May 2, 2023