EDITOR’S NOTE: Kevin Ezell serves as president of the North American Mission Board.
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — When Southern Baptist churches send church planters to the cities of North America, the goal is always to see them become part of their communities. Increasingly we are cultivating indigenous planters who have spent their lives in the area in which they are planting.
These men not only commit to investing their ministries in the places they’ve been sent, they invest their lives and many have wives and children who invest as well. When their communities experience joy, they do too. But when pain comes to our cities, they experience that as well.
This was demonstrated in a high profile way with our church planters in Baltimore recently when the death of Freddy Gray sparked tension and unrest that unfortunately led to violent riots.
I’m happy to say that among those first offering help and hope were Southern Baptist church planters. Alongside other Southern Baptist pastors, they led their churches to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the midst of this chaos. Michael Crawford, pastor of the 5-year-old Freedom Church in Baltimore, mobilized his congregation and others to feed children in the city that may not have otherwise eaten when schools closed the day after the riots. They used Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief funds to do it.
These efforts have given Michael and other church planters a platform for sharing Christ with children and parents who need a lot of hope right now.
“When the flesh is hungry, it’s hard for the soul to hear God,” Michael said. “It’s so important we feed these kids because we want them to be in a place where they can hear from God.”
And because of their deep compassion for their city, Southern Baptist church plants also teamed up to help clean up riot-torn neighborhoods the morning after the violence. Planters Joel Kurz and Brad O’Brien were among the local church leaders who organized cleanup and prayer efforts. Kurz, whose church is in one of the impacted neighborhoods, had church members who knew Freddy Gray.
Thank you for praying for church planters like Michael, Joel and Brad. And please pray for our cities. When sending these families to the mission field like Baltimore, a part of us goes with them. Those cities become our cities. We pray for them. We partner with them. We send mission teams to help. As we connect with the cities of North America, their pain and brokenness must impact us and propel us to further action.
Your church can become directly involved in providing gospel-centered solutions in Baltimore. We have multiple Catch the Vision tours coming up in the city. These will be great opportunities to meet church planters and discover ways your church can help.