BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–While dozens of Southern Baptist churches are mobilizing via Send North America: New York City — which launches Sept. 30 — to plant new churches in the Big Apple and its greater metro area, Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., may be the most excited.
Send North America is the North American Mission Board’s strategy to mobilize and assist churches and individuals in hands-on church planting throughout the United States and Canada.
Pastored for the last 15 years by Danny Wood, Shades Mountain Baptist is spearheading New York City area church planting under NAMB’s Send North America initiative.
Shades Mountain — which on Sept. 18 celebrated its 100th anniversary — is participating in Send North America: New York City in two ways. First, the church is a supporting church for Maranatha Grace Church in Fort Lee, N.J., just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. Second, Wood is serving as chairman of the partnership coalition of local and national SBC leaders who will coordinate church planting in metro New York, which numbers some 22 million people.
Why are Wood and Shades Mountain Baptist interested in planting churches in New York and New Jersey? Don’t they have enough to do as one of the largest SBC churches in Alabama? Their reasons can be traced back to the fall of 2001 and Wood’s vision to take Shades Mountain to a higher lever of missions and ministry.
“In 2001, we had only two families of eight people on the mission field,” Wood said. “Under our Share 2010 Vision, we wanted to have our members on mission serving in 24 time zones throughout the world. We wanted to plant churches in all 11 International Mission Board regions. We wanted to minister in all 50 states. Our goal was to plant five new churches in the United States, one in Canada and to adopt one of NAMB’s Strategic Focus Cities.”
Since the vision of Wood and his church was what they believed to be God-sized, he told his congregation, “New York is the largest city in America, so let’s tackle it.”
And tackle it they did. In 2004, Shades Mountain started supporting pastor Kevin Pounds to plant The Point Church at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.
Under Send North America: New York City, Shades Mountain has mobilized to partner with Maranatha Grace Church, a multiethnic, English-speaking congregation — running about 100 each week — pastored by South Korea native Won Kwak. That includes onsite missions work by Shades Mountain members as well as financial support of Maranatha by Shades Mountain.
Wood is the first to concede that not all SBC churches have the vision, priority and will to plant new churches. How did he persuade his members to jump on the church planting bandwagon?
“We just looked at the New Testament,” Wood said. “Look at what Paul, Barnabas and others did, how they traveled to plant new churches — usually in major cities. We have to plant churches in major cities. That’s how the multiplication of the Gospel takes place.”
Wood said Shades Mountain members quickly embraced church planting.
“We just showed them the statistics that a new church will evangelize more and grow more than a church more settled,” he said. “We now know that we can lengthen Shades Mountain’s reach by planting more churches.”
As Shades Mountain began planting new churches, Wood said members got excited and he would have the church planters come in and be a part of the church’s annual Global Impact Celebration each February.
“Our people would catch their vision and get even more excited. They began taking trips to the church plants. Our folks just fell in love with the planters and came to understand how difficult it can be to plant churches up in the New York area. They became anxious to help out.”
Wood said planting a church in a distant location takes missions to a higher level.
“When you go on a mission trip, you go, invest some time, and then you return home. It’s more meaningful to plant a church there. If you do that, you can work with that new church plant, invest in it and see the fruits of your labor that will continue on.”
And while Wood admits the size of a sending or supporting church is a factor, it’s not a prerequisite in measuring success in church planting.
“Any size church can be a sending or supporting church,” Wood said. “What’s so good about Send North America is the way the local coalition — like the one I chair in New York — is created to match up churches of all sizes that want to plant churches,” he said. “A small church can join in with other churches and pool resources to plant churches. At the same time, the local coalition matches up these sending churches with the church planters who are being identified, trained and validated.”
There is a role for every SBC church of every size under NAMB’s Send North America effort. The first step for any church to get involved in planting churches is to go to www.namb.net and click on “mobilize me.”
Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.