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Nehemiah Project church-planting initiative now in place

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Two “Nehemiah Project” church planting professors have been appointed at seminaries in California and Canada, completing the initial implementation of the North American Mission Board’s seminary-based plan for training and mentoring church starters.
Colorado church planter D. Allan Karr has been named Nehemiah Project professor at Golden Gate Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., while Stan Harris* will direct the program at Canadian Baptist Theological Seminary in Cochrane, Alberta. They will join Nehemiah Project professors at the other five Southern Baptist seminaries already appointed as both seminary faculty and NAMB missionaries.
The Nehemiah Project is a partnership between NAMB, the seminaries and state conventions designed to train and mentor church planters through a combination of classroom instruction and extended internships. Two groups of church planter interns already have been appointed as NAMB missionaries through the program, which was announced last summer.
“The early signals are this is going to be even bigger than we anticipated, because of the interest students are bringing and the affirmation we are receiving,” said Richard Harris, vice president of NAMB’s church planting group. “… I would say we are at least a year to a year and a half ahead of where we thought we would be in No. 1, getting the professors, and No. 2, getting the curriculum into the seminaries.”
Karr, based at Golden Gate’s Rocky Mountain Campus in suburban Denver, will direct Nehemiah Project training programs throughout the seminary’s regional campuses. Golden Gate operates five campuses to “provide contextualized theological education in the vast and diverse mission settings of the western United States,” said seminary president William O. Crews.
“From our vantage point at Golden Gate, we are looking at church planting opportunities of world-size dimension,” said Crews. “Allan Karr’s real-world experience and visionary leadership of this mission initiative will complement the spirit of church planting and evangelism that lies at the heart of Golden Gate. We can only begin to imagine all that God will do as we give serious, determined effort across this country and around the world to plant healthy, lasting congregations.”
Sam Williams, assistant professor of pastoral leadership at Golden Gate and director of the seminary’s church planting program at the Mill Valley, Calif., campus near San Francisco, believes the practical experience gained in this kind of program is invaluable to healthy church planting in the future.
Golden Gate’s internship training program became one of the key prototypes for the Nehemiah Project. During the seminary’s “testing phase” of the program, seminary students helped start nearly two dozen churches.
Karr founded Castle Valley Community Church in Castle Rock, Colo., with just his family in 1995. Designed as a reproducing congregation from its inception, the church of about 130 in attendance has already started one new church and core groups are being formed for two others. Karr also has been a leader in the various church-planting training programs of the Colorado Baptist General Convention.
Before starting the Castle Valley congregation, Karr was senior pastor of Azalea City Baptist Church (now Crossroads Baptist Church) in Valdosta, Ga., from 1993-95. In Cairo, Ga., from 1991-93, he was pastor of Gordon Heights Baptist Church. He also served as pastor of churches in Florida and Missouri. He has been involved in various leadership development and training positions with state Baptist conventions and local Baptist associations over the years in the areas of church planting, church growth and mission development.
Karr will receive his doctor of philosophy in humanities, with an emphasis in religion, from Florida State University in Tallahassee later this year. He received the master of divinity degree from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and the bachelor of arts in American Studies at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee.
Karr and his wife, Kathy, have four children: Joshua, 10; Alyssa, 8; Hannah, 5; and Micah, 2.
At the Canadian Baptist Theological Seminary, President Richard Blackaby said the appointment of Harris is especially critical because of the convention’s ambitious goal of planting 1,000 new churches over the next 20 years.
It is a “God-sized” vision, Blackaby said, but the establishment of the Nehemiah Project is just one of the areas in which God is helping to confirm his will. “It’s becoming obvious that God really is in this and wants us to do this,” he said.
The entire Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists currently has only 138 churches — most of them small — in a nation with a population of 30 million. The North American Mission Board has shared the convention’s vision, however, making the evangelization of Canada a top strategic priority.
“This Nehemiah Project couldn’t come at a more opportune time in our convention’s history,” Blackaby said. “We’re not interested in simply building an institution. We feel like we have a purpose, and that is to develop as many leaders as our convention needs to lead our churches.”
With only 50 and 60 students this year, Blackaby said the Nehemiah Project and church planting is emerging as the focus of the entire seminary’s efforts.
“To us, being a part of the Nehemiah Project is not just adding another faculty member. It really is becoming the centerpoint for our seminary, the major thrust,” he said.
The selection of Harris is also ideal, Blackaby said, because he is the first native Canadian to serve on the seminary faculty. Known as a “gifted communicator and preacher,” according to Blackaby, Harris comes to the seminary after serving as an International Mission Board missionary. He has been a church planter and church planter strategist in Southeast Asia since 1991.
“One of my goals will be to see a force of church planters, fluent in the Canadian cultural context, trained, equipped and enabled to be catalysts for a church planting movement in Canada,” Harris said.
Previously he served as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and as associate pastor for youth and evangelism at Temple Baptist Church in Fairfield, Calif.
Harris holds a master of arts degree in religion and English from Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar, Mo. and the master of divinity degree from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.
He and his wife Sherri, have three children: Leighton, 17; “Robert, 15; and Brendon, 9.
Cameron Crabtree of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary contributed to this report.
*Name changed for security concerns.

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  • James Dotson