ANAHEIM, Calif. (BP) – During a presentation designed to encourage Southern Baptists to engage the mission of church planting, Southern Baptist Convention president Ed Litton encouraged attendees to the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting to engage their congregations in the mission of church planting with a special emphasis on the need in California.
“One in nine Americans live in California,” Litton said in opening his presentation. “If we are going to be serious in reaching North America with the Gospel and planting churches that will bring transformational, Gospel impact in our nation, we must reach California.”
Litton’s presentation preceded the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) presentation on Tuesday evening, June 14, and he cited NAMB’s statistic that, by 2030, one-third of Southern Baptist churches will have been planted since 2010, based on the current trajectory.
“As your president, when I first visited California,” Litton said, “I was reminded of the greatness of this state – the greatness of its population, the greatness of its diversity but more importantly the greatness of its need for Jesus Christ.”
While the need is great, California also boasts an incredible history of Gospel movement coming from the state. Litton reminded attendees of the fruit that resulted from Billy Graham Crusades in Los Angeles during the 1940s to the Jesus Movement of the 1970s.
“God has California on his heart,” Litton said.
He then shared his vision to launch, over the next five years, an additional 50 church plants beyond NAMB’s current projections in the state.
“I want to encourage you to consider bringing your church alongside in whatever way possible you can work with, maybe with a church in your association like my church,” Litton said of the church he pastors, Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala. “We’ve already adopted a church here in the Los Angeles area in Pomona, Calif., and we are supporting a church planter as he plants a church, reaching people in the streets of Pomona.”
Churches can come alongside new church plants in several ways, and the NAMB church planting arm, Send Network, focuses on helping churches do just that by connecting existing churches with new church starts.
“Use these opportunities to help a church planter get started. Use the opportunities to support them and encourage them in the work that they’re doing,” Litton said. “The North American Mission Board has an amazing strategy, an amazing team of people, that is serious about getting the Gospel throughout North America. So, now is the time for us to get our hearts focused on planting churches and supporting church planters in California.”
Following a short video that shared the story of Jacob Zailian, church-planting missionary in Sanger, Calif., Litton invited several California church planters and their wives onto the stage to be recognized and honored by SBC annual meeting attendees, who cheered the missionaries with a standing ovation.
Litton invited David Butler, who in recent years helped steer a revival of church planting in Boston as NAMB’s Send City Missionary, to pray over the church planters and their churches.
“Father, when they find themselves facing those moments with the challenging realities of church planting, may they realize that they did not come to plant a church. They came to plant their lives,” Butler prayed. “And Father, in those moments, may they be encouraged knowing that they are not alone.”
Send Network president Vance Pitman closed the presentation by praying 1 Thessalonians 5:24 over the missionaries: “Faithful is He who calls you, and He will also bring it to pass.”
“Lord, may you do exceedingly, abundantly, above and beyond anything they can ask, think or imagine,” Pitman prayed. “And may you do it so lostness may be penetrated and darkness pushed back in the state of California, but not just in California, so that these churches can impact the Western United States but not just the United States but so that the nations may know who Jesus is, God would you raise up these churches to be lighthouses for the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”