CLEVELAND, Ohio (BP) — Continuous rainfall added three hours to Josh McGuire’s drive to Cleveland, Ohio, from Jefferson City, Mo. He drove 14 hours, his moving truck sloshing and slipping through Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
The North American Mission Board church planter was determined not to let the onslaught of water deter him. Joined by his seven-months-pregnant wife Jana and their toddler Owen, McGuire has launched a new church in Euclid, a blue-collar city adjacent to Cleveland.
Despite the fact that God was tugging McGuire’s heart toward church planting, Cleveland wasn’t even on McGuire’s radar a year and a half ago. That’s when McGuire saw a copy of On Mission magazine with the words Send North America in big, bold white type.
A quote by Cleveland church planter Alex Ennes stood out: “I want to reach Cleveland, not plant a church.” Ennes’ desire to equip other Cleveland church planters resonated with McGuire.
“As my wife and I had been talking about planting a church, we had talked about that,” McGuire said. “Going into church planting, we didn’t want to just plant a church and have it stop there. From the beginning we wanted to have a world impact as we reproduce disciples of Christ. Through that would come new churches started in our area.”
The McGuires sensed God was leading them to Euclid, a blue-collar community adjacent to Cleveland. With the blessing and partnership of their church, Concord Baptist in Jefferson City, the McGuires made plans for the move.
The family would need to persevere. Euclid had no Southern Baptist presence. God frequently brought to McGuire’s mind the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 15 about evangelizing “where Christ had not yet been named.”
While Euclid has racial and socio-economic diversity, it is hindered by urban sprawl and a lack of resources.
One conversation with a lifelong Euclid resident helped to cement McGuire’s thoughts on how churches can help. A woman told McGuire that Euclid used to be a place where “everyone had each other’s back” because “churches cared.” But, the woman told McGuire, “churches don’t care anymore.”
McGuire wants to change that perception. “Serve,” at the front of the new church’s new name, summarizes McGuire’s strategy to reach Euclid.
“First and foremost our heart is to serve our Lord Jesus Christ, make Him known, and impact lostness,” McGuire said of Serve Church: Euclid. “But the second part of that is we want to serve in this community. We have a lot of really poor people in the community. We want to show people the church isn’t just a big building that tries to get your tithes, but we want to give back to our community.”
With the help of the Send North America: Cleveland team, McGuire has recruited Southern Baptists from across the U.S. to help with a variety of community service projects. This summer, nearly 1,000 volunteers made their way to Euclid to assist the new church. Send North America is NAMB’s church planting and evangelism strategy prioritizing Southern Baptist missions efforts on those areas of North America with the greatest spiritual lostness and the smallest number of Southern Baptist churches.
Many secular community leaders have joined McGuire’s efforts in Euclid, offering to provide outreach opportunities to the church and Southern Baptist volunteers.
McGuire expects the church will give 40 to 50 percent of its tithes and offerings back to Euclid through ministry and service projects, while still supporting the Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program and NAMB’s Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.
McGuire plans for Serve Church to be a hub for a variety of new churches in the community, helping to equip church planters throughout Euclid and eastern Cleveland as part of Send North America: Cleveland, which has a goal of planting 100 churches there in the next five years.
To learn more about the Send North America: Cleveland strategy and ways to support it, visit namb.net/Cleveland.
Tobin Perry is a writer for the North American Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).