A Professor’s Legacy of Mentoring Church Planters

Steve Lee stood at the front of his Contemporary Evangelism class at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), eager to see how the Lord would move in the hearts of students. However, he didn’t expect his own heart to be pricked — once again — regarding the need for church planting. He wasn’t new to the work of church planting, and it was clear his involvement in it was not over yet.

“I’ve been part of launching three church plants. And in January 2011, I was asked to teach evangelism and mission classes at my alma mater, SWBTS. As I was teaching on church planting, God was working in my own heart about planting another church,” Lee said.

During the first semester, Lee began asking God if He wanted him to start another church. That summer, he led a small group Bible study — mostly made up of seminary students — and it flourished. This small group eventually sprouted into a church, and by 2012, the International Baptist Church of Arlington (IBCA) officially launched in Arlington, Texas.

It’s rare seminary students learn about church planting while being part of one, but for the students in Lee’s class, they got the privilege of learning through information and experience.

“Each week, I looked at my class and saw all these missionary-aspiring students, and I wanted to give them hands-on experience of what church planting was all about. As I was teaching about church planting, God gave me the privilege of starting a church and inviting my students into that,” Lee said.

Lee sees his calling as a guide, helping others multiply their ministry. The lead church planter of IBCA was a former student of his, Peter Vavrosky, and Lee mentored and trained him and cultivated gospel ministry in the lives of other leaders and members in the church.

“I was a mentor and a guide, not the lead planter. That’s my calling — to work with leaders and help them multiply their life and ministry. Before we reconnected at SWBTS, Peter was my student when I taught at a Bible college in Canada 10 years ago. We reconnected at SWBTS, and he became my church planting intern, then my church planting assistant and then the lead planter for IBCA,” explained Lee.

In 2018, Lee began serving as a Church Planting Catalyst in Vancouver, British Columbia, for Send Network — the church planting arm of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). Church Planting Catalysts cultivate relationships with church planters, coaching them toward multiplication.

“When I was at SWBTS and serving at IBCA, God began to crystalize our

commitment to Vancouver. We were teaching, having conferences, hosting GenSend student missionaries. We were very involved with GenSend in Vancouver. During this season, God enabled me to see a huge need there,” he said. “I came here to strategically equip and help send out missionaries, church planters and church planting team members.”

And that’s what Lee has done. He has had a hand in training dozens of his former students and some of them are currently planting churches or preparing to plant churches throughout British Columbia in areas like Langley, Burnaby and Surrey (expected to plant next year). The planting families and individuals moving to these cities were in Lee’s class and benefited from his mentorship. Through his mentorship, IBCA and SWBTS the church has sent out three full-time planters to Vancouver and are sending out another in 2022. With John Sun as the current pastor, IBCA has become a sending church for these missionaries to Vancouver.

“Developing leaders is so critical. In Vancouver, we don’t have enough people to proclaim the gospel or enough laborers — so we have to raise them up,” he said. “Developing healthy leaders to multiply and plant churches is critical. To not do so would be to stifle and deprive them of a joyful pathway,” he said.

Lee was quick to attribute everything happening in Vancouver to God’s kindness and providence.

“Everything happening with SWBTS, IBCA and Vancouver is God’s story. He’s connecting the dots, orchestrating everything for our good and His glory,” he said.


Published September 28, 2021

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