- Baptist Press - https://www.baptistpress.com -

NAMB challenges state leaders to double church plants by AD 2020


HOUSTON (BP)–North American Mission Board leaders have challenged state leaders with a “God-sized” vision which would result in the more than doubling the number of Southern Baptist churches over the next 22 years by planting new churches — one of the principle thrusts of the agency’s strategy for reaching the United States and Canada.
“In order to evangelize the most people in North America with the gospel by year 2020, we will need to plant 60,000 new congregations over the next 22 years,” said Richard Harris, vice president of the church planting group for NAMB. “That will mean, after you factor in attrition for old and new congregations, a total of 100,000 healthy, reproducing Southern Baptist churches with an evangelistic passion.”
Currently, the SBC includes approximately 46,574 total congregations, and averages 1400 to 1500 church plants per year. To reach the 2020 goal, Southern Baptists will need to nearly double their church planting efforts.
Canada has only 127 Southern Baptist churches and church-type missions. Of the 60,000 new church plants, 1,000 need to be in Canada, Harris said. “In Canada, 50 church plants per year would give 1,227 total churches. That’s an 866 percent increase over the current number,” Harris told state leaders at the church planting leaders meeting February 19.
Harris said such an ambitious goal can only be reached with intentional preparation, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Calling it the “20/20 vision for the twenty-first century,” Harris outlined the church planting process for planting new churches.
“Mission preparedness is the first step in the process,” said Harris. “We need to operate out of a biblical foundation, catch God’s vision by getting on his agenda and undergird all our efforts with fervent prayer.”
Intentional prayer support for starting new churches keeps church starting from being mechanical and avoids an assembly-line mentality, said Harris.
Mobilization is the second step, Harris said. “God has given all the gifts we need for the church; we haven’t called them out,” he said. Mobilization includes enlisting, assessing and training at least 50,000 church planters by the year 2020, Harris said. “Any realistic plan of mobilization must involve large numbers of lay people and bivocational ministers,” he said.
The third step, mentoring, is “the transferring of wisdom based on experience, effectiveness and godly example,” said Harris. “In addition, church planters need to be exposed to a wide variety of successful models,” he added.
According to Harris, the greatest need for good mentoring is in the cities. Storefronts, multi-housing units and business high-rises have unique characteristics and non-conventional methods, he said.
“The fourth step in the process is multiplication,” said Harris. “The church cannot accomplish the Great Commission as long as the population is multiplying while the church is merely adding.”
“This is a God-sized task. It will take supernatural intervention for us to accomplish the vision,” Harris said. “In addition, it will take absolute trust of one another to team with one another, plan with one another and partner with one another.”
“The 20/20 vision for the 21st century is the passion of Richard Harris’ heart and the heart of the church planting staff, and it is the general passion of NAMB leadership,” said Bob Reccord, president of NAMB. “Richard is asking us to stretch the envelope, to dream more significantly than we’ve ever dreamed before.”
“To make this vision a reality, we will need to work through — not around — state missions and state program directors,” said Dewey Hickey, director of NAMB’s strategy and resource development team. “This kind of God-sized vision will require a kingdom mentality.”
Sharing the vision with state leaders at the Houston meeting was the first step to working with them, said Hickey. Between March 1 and May 31, 1998, NAMB’s church planting staff will attempt to meet individually with representative state convention leaders, to listen to their input. After assimilating information gathered through these meetings, NAMB’s church planting group will announce further plans at the North American Mission Board Week, called “On Mission 98” in Ridgecrest, Aug. 2-5.
“To fulfill this vision, it will take a mass mobilization of leaders who have a heart passion for evangelism and a mentality for mobilization,” said Reccord.