NEW ORLEANS (BP) — Pastor Mitch Whidden came to the North American Mission Board’s exhibit during this year’s Southern Baptist Convention with a purpose: to get some help with planting a new church.
Barrington Ridge Baptist Church in Hobart, Ind., where Whidden serves as pastor of the 200-member congregation, launched a church last Easter in neighboring Highland.
“There’s hardly any Gospel presence in this area. It’s overwhelming,” Whidden said. “We’ve got to revitalize churches and plant new churches. It’s the only way we’re going to reach the area. There was a vacant building that belonged to the association in a neighborhood that really needed a church. We just said that we’d plant a church there.”
Today — just a little more than a year later — that church has about 80 in attendance on a typical Sunday and baptizes regularly. Now another building has become available in another local neighborhood in need of a church. Barrington Ridge wants to try it again.
But this time they want help, and they believe they found it at the NAMB exhibit.
“I was really behind on [church planting],” Whidden said, despite the early growth of the initial church plant. “I didn’t know how to plant a church at all. I probably made more mistakes than I did things right. But we’re going to do it again.”
Whidden was just one of many Southern Baptists who were engaged in Send North America at the NAMB exhibit during the Southern Baptist Convention and Pastors’ Conference in New Orleans in June. The exhibit featured cityscapes of each of NAMB’s five regions and videos on church planters in those regions.
At the heart of the exhibit were NAMB mobilizers who personally helped visiting Southern Baptists engage missions in North America. Those who visited the exhibit were encouraged to complete a Mobilize Me card, which allows NAMB staff to get back in touch with them after the convention and connect them with specific church plant or other missions opportunities in North America.
NAMB has set a goal of seeing a net gain of 5,000 SBC congregations by the end of 2022. That will require 13,500 new churches and a church revitalization initiative to help struggling congregations. NAMB’s Send North America strategy includes church planting, evangelism, ministry evangelism, disaster relief and several other ministries centered on local churches.
One pastor came to NAMB’s exhibit after wrestling with getting involved personally in church planting in the Pacific Northwest. After talking with several NAMB mobilizers at the exhibit and praying about it much of the night, he woke up the next morning ready to explore church planting even further, saying that God had “broken my heart” for a particular city in the Northwest.
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. Southern Baptists who didn’t attend the convention can get involved in Send North America by visiting www.namb.net and clicking “Mobilize Me.” Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).