Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared here in the Southern Baptist TEXAN.
GRAPEVINE, Texas — A new partnership between the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) will provide additional resources to start churches in high need areas throughout Texas.
Approved at August’s meeting of the SBTC executive board, the new Send Network SBTC collaboration will begin in 2022.
“We are excited to see God move in a powerful way through Send [Network SBTC],” said Nathan Lorick, SBTC executive director. “God is bringing the world to Texas, and we want to be ready to maximize all our efforts and as many dollars as possible to see more churches planted than ever before. In the future, we want to accelerate the gospel advance across Texas at an unparalleled rate. We believe one of the most strategic ways to do this is through church planting.”
This new partnership means that beginning in 2022, NAMB will take on a bigger role in assessing, training, caring for and supporting SBTC church planters. The SBTC will continue to care for church planters and provide retreat opportunities for planters and their spouses.
Tony Mathews, SBTC senior strategist for Missional Ministries, says the new resources will allow the convention to grow church planting efforts throughout the state—including in some of the most unreached parts.
“With millions of lost people in the state of Texas along with thousands of people moving [weekly]to major cities across Texas, we are expecting to plant churches in as many places as we can,” Mathews said. “Of course, from a strategic standpoint, we will be looking at unreached areas and unreached people groups as the world has come to Texas. NAMB’s expertise in identifying, training and mobilizing church planters along with our current expertise in this area, should increase the number of sending churches and pastors in the pipeline.”
Before this partnership, SBC churches worked through NAMB to plant churches in areas of high need mostly outside of the South. To plant churches within Texas, SBTC churches worked through the state convention. Now, NAMB President Kevin Ezell said, SBTC churches get the best of both organizations.
“So instead of just having the SBTC looking at Texas and how to plant churches, now you have two of us. You’ve got NAMB and the SBTC, so it’s like you added a whole other cylinder to the engine,” Ezell said. “Instead of either/or, it’s both/and. That’s what I’d want every pastor to understand. The only thing that’s changed is now NAMB is going to add its momentum and its church planting expertise to what the SBTC already has.”
SBTC churches can now access NAMB support for church planting efforts in the state as well as beyond it.
Noting that Southern Baptists are better together, Lorick looks forward to God moving throughout Texas in a powerful way through this partnership.
“When you can cooperate with an organization that does planting as well as NAMB does, you are able to gain a synergistic momentum,” Lorick said.
NAMB launched Send North America in 2011 with a focus on urban areas that were underrepresented by Southern Baptists. In recent years, NAMB has expanded Send Network to include entire state conventions, like the SBTC.
Ezell says these new networks have worked “incredibly well.” He added that these state Send Network agreements have streamlined how NAMB partners with states to do church planting. It has created even greater synergy and cooperation. For church planter candidates, it has been an encouragement because the process is simpler, and they have the benefit of knowing that both the state convention and NAMB are unified in their partnership and support for them.
Texas represents a critical state for NAMB’s effort to mobilize Southern Baptists to push back lostness. Ezell compares it to high school football, where the athletic talent in the state draws the attention of recruiters around the country. The same is true for church planting.
“There’s a tremendous amount of talent in that state,” Ezell said. “Our biggest need right now is high-capacity planters, and for Texas to partner with us so that we can engage their churches in intentionally mobilizing their people to be potential church planters, then that’s huge for us.”
The new resources and systems NAMB is providing through this partnership have the potential to draw new leaders into the SBTC, says Doug Hixson, who served as the SBTC’s church planting director until moving to Colorado to plant a new church this summer.
“Although I don’t know the exact statistics, I would say close to half of the people that would come to SBTC to plant with us were looking for a network,” Hixson said. “Maybe they weren’t from the SBC or were only marginally involved. Having a national network that we’re a part of has been helpful from an SBTC standpoint, but now for the convention to be formally connected directly with NAMB brings a lot more to the table. Send Network and the North American Mission Board have high-level thinkers and leaders, along with their training, their assessments, and their planter support and care. In my opinion, it is the best—or one of the best—church planting networks in our nation.”
Lorick urges SBTC congregations and pastors to pray for church planting efforts within the state.
“We know there is power in prayer. I would ask that you pray that God would raise up new planters who see the desperate need in Texas for new churches,” Lorick said. “We need to plant as many new churches as we can, as God continues to bring so many people here. The need is great, and the time is now.”
Published September 24, 2021