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NAMB’s Harris calls seminarians to ‘adventure’ in church planting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–The “adventure of your life,” a North American Mission Board leader told students at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, can involve church planting.
Richard Harris, vice president for NAMB’s church-planting group, noted the agency’s goal of doubling the number of Southern Baptist churches by the year 2020. That goal, he said Nov. 10, involves helping local Baptists start at least 60,000 new churches, or 2,800 a year.
Nearly 1,500 new church starts were recorded last year, moving toward the intent of putting a church within reach of every people group in North America, Harris reported at Midwestern, where a master of divinity degree with a church-planting focus in either domestic or international ministry has been inaugurated.
“When you look around the world, God is up to something,” Harris told the Kansas City, Mo., seminary community. “In Mongolia there were few to no Christians just a couple of years ago. Now, they are doubling their number every few months. In 1990, Nepal only had 300 Christians. Now, there are between 300,000 and 400,000.
“The God who’s working in Africa is working in North America,” Harris said. “God is working through the church-planting movement.”
Evangelical churches have spent $250 billion in the last 50 years and have failed to gain an additional 2 percent of the American population, Harris said. With the church population declining, he noted that in 1900 there were 27 churches for every 10,000 Americans. The number dropped to 17 in the 1950s and only 11 for every 10,000 Americans by 1996.
“The greatest tool we have is evangelism. If we want people to hear the gospel, we need to take it to the city, to the rural areas, to the mobile home parks and to the prisons. You can be involved in this movement,” Harris said.
Citing principles to help students get started in church planting, Harris said the first element is dedicated preparation, setting apart Christ as Lord. “When you have the Lord in your heart, he will be Lord in your home and your career,” Harris said. “You must grab this principle. I don’t do anything that is not directly related to this. Christ must be number one.”
Harris also encouraged the students to always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks for reasons for their hope. When individuals come under conviction upon observing the difference in a Christian’s life, Harris said believers can seize the opportunity to tell the reason.
“God is up to something and he wants you in on it,” Harris said. “My advice is to get in on it wherever you can. Tell God, ‘You can count on me.'”