NEW ORLEANS – Send Network, the North American Mission Board’s church planting arm, hosted pastors and church leaders Monday, June 12 at its NEXT event, which highlighted the kingdom impact local churches can make through church planting.
Send Network leaders unveiled a newly revamped Mobilization Pathway, a tool churches can use to identify their next step in church planting.
As North America is one of only two continents where Christianity is declining, the urgency and opportunity is clear, said Send Network president Vance Pitman.
“There are roughly 275 million non-Christians living in North America. So, one percent of the lost population in north America is 2.75 million people,” Pitman said. “What would it take? Could we see the kingdom of God expand by one percent in the next decade, so that we could hand to our children and our grandchildren a different trajectory for the kingdom on our continent?”
Whether a church is completely new to church planting or has planted dozens of times, there are achievable next steps it can take, Send Network leaders said.
The New Testament model — that churches plant churches — is clear for every church, Pitman added.
“Individuals don’t plant churches. Denominations don’t plant churches. Networks don’t plant churches,” Pitman said. “Churches plant churches.”
Against the backdrop of thousands of churches gathered for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting in June, Send Network leaders expressed excitement about the Great Commission unity possible through church planting.
“What if we look back a generation from now and see a sweeping movement of God ushering in thousands, maybe millions of people into the kingdom of God?” Pitman asked. “I don’t know about you, but sometimes we get lost in all the politics of what happens surrounding this convention; but I’m telling you, what God brought us together to be about was the mission of God being accomplished — the kingdom of God expanding in cities and nations all over the world. The minute we take our eyes off that ball, He will be done with us.”
One key component to Send Network’s mission focuses on planting churches among Spanish-speaking populations throughout North America. To that end, Félix Cabrera leads Send Network Español as a Send Network vice president and shared that vision in a video.
One of Send Network’s values, “deepen devotion,” was put on display as Pitman led attendees through an extended time of prayer around their church’s role in engaging cities with the gospel, making disciples and planting churches.
A panel discussion unpacked the values driving Send Network’s family of churches planting churches: “seek first the kingdom,” “deepen devotion,” “stick together,” “think multiplication,” and “engage your city.”
Pitman was joined by members of Send Network’s lead team of planters, including Adam Bailie, senior lead pastor of Christ Church in Gilbert, Ariz.; Jon Kelly, lead pastor of Chicago West Bible Church; Bryan Loritts, Send Network’s vice president of regions; and Matt Carter, Send Network’s vice president of mobilization. The discussion was moderated by Noah Oldham, Send Network’s senior director of culture and care, who planted and pastors August Gate Church in Belleville, Ill.
Kelly, in describing the value of “stick together,” talked about how the importance of Christian unity flows from the essence of God, who is three persons in one.
“If you see this, you can understand why Satan attacks it so much, because it’s at the very heart of who God is,” Kelly said. “Paul would challenge the church in Ephesians 4:3. He would say things like, ‘Be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit.’ He didn’t say, ‘Be eager to agree on every little detail,’ but, ‘maintain the unity of the Spirit.’”
A second panel shared insights and lessons learned in the process of planting churches, and included Oldham and Carter, as well as J. D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C.; and Send Network lead team of planters members: Stephen Love, lead pastor at Redemption City Church in South Bend, Ind.; Dean Fulks, lead pastor of Lifepointe Church in Lewis Center, Ohio; and Julio Crespo, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central in Oklahoma City and a Send Network Hispanic champion.
Greear shared about the step his church took to become a multiplying church, a congregation that regularly sends out its members to start new churches. They began by first becoming a supporting church that provided resources to new churches.
“The vision began to be put into our church as we would ask church planters to come back and share vision and preach,” Greear said. “It was a great on-ramp process for us that then led to our first church planter coming up from inside, and then it just increased year by year.”
The following day, June 13, Pitman announced the addition of Tony Merida as vice president of planter development for Send Network. Merida will continue to serve as a pastor at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Church planting — together — is the tool for expanding the kingdom of God, Pitman said in wrapping up Send Network’s NEXT event.
“We can’t do it without multiplying the church,” he said. “No one church can do it by itself. We have to do it together. You can take your next step, and let’s join in God’s activity of seeing His kingdom expanded.”
Visit SendNetwork.com/Mobilize to discover how local churches can take their next step to expand the kingdom of God through church planting.
Anna Skudarnova contributed to this report.
Published June 13, 2023