ALPHARETTA, Ga. – The North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia (SBCV) have formed a cooperative effort to create Send Network Virginia to bolster church planting efforts in the state.
“As a former church planter, I can testify first-hand that the SBC of Virginia and NAMB have been giving much needed and strategic support for churches planting churches,” said Brian Autry, executive director of the SBCV. “However, I believe this new partnership, Send Network Virginia, can take it to another level.”
In the Southern Baptist Convention, churches plant churches, but entities and state conventions, like NAMB and the SBCV, seek to provide support as likeminded, Southern Baptist congregations come together to cooperate in planting new churches where a gospel witness is most needed.
“I am so grateful for Brian and his vision for supporting Southern Baptist churches in the state of Virginia,” said NAMB president Kevin Ezell. “He has not only led the SBC of Virginia to do great work in their state, but they have also made a great impact in North America and around the world for the sake of the gospel.”
Autry described how the demographics in the state have shifted in recent years as cities like Richmond and the Washington, D.C., have grown. As the population continues to increase, there are more than a hundred different people groups represented in the state.
“More Ethiopians live in Virginia than anywhere else except for Ethiopia,” said Autry. “We are seeing a great movement among Hispanic churches. We have growing college campuses, military communities, beautiful countryside communities as well as growing towns and cities.”
Josh Weatherspoon, church planting missionary of The Way Church near Richmond, Va., launched out of Salem Baptist Church in Manakin-Sabot, Va., where Weatherspoon had been associate pastor. After sensing the call to plant, they recognized that there were serious needs in their own state.
“A lot of unreached peoples from around the world are here,” said Weatherspoon. “The population is so condensed here, and there is such a small number of gospel-centered churches, the need to plant a new church became evident.”
Their church launched in March of 2020 just two weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic forced shutdowns of businesses and churches. The SBCV supported the young church plant, hosting pre-launch meetings in January and February of 2020 and services in 2021 as businesses began opening again.
“The Lord has used the SBCV in the early life of our church,” Weatherspoon said. “With NAMB coming alongside, I’m excited to hear about the potential of what the Lord may do.”
Eric Thomas, an SBCV pastor of First Baptist Church Norfolk, Va., and current chairman of NAMB’s board of trustees, shared his excitement about the new partnership between the SBCV and NAMB.
“This powerful partnership will leverage the unique strengths of SBCV and NAMB in a way that will maximize our church planting efforts in the Commonwealth,” Thomas said. “Through this focused, cooperative effort, the beauty of the gospel will shine ever brighter as we mobilize churches to plant churches throughout Virginia with even greater clarity and purpose.”
As Southern Baptist churches in Virginia seek to plant churches in areas in need of a strong, gospel witness, NAMB and the SBCV will be ready and available to come alongside them and provide the necessary support.
“The Send Network Virginia church planting partnership between SBC of Virginia and NAMB,” said Autry, “will leverage the best of our resources and relationships as we strive to see even more churches planting churches.”
Published June 7, 2021