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Patterson challenges associations, mega-churches to impact cities

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Partnerships between associations, more missionary involvement by mega-churches and the private purchase of a city block in Manhattan for church use are among the challenges Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson plans to place before SBC messengers in June.
Patterson shared his plans with trustees of the North American Mission Board as part of their regular Feb. 1-3 meeting in Alpharetta, Ga. He previously has indicated the task of reaching the cities of the world with the gospel — one of the top priorities of the North American Mission Board — also will be a primary focus of this year’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Atlanta.
“As a challenge to Southern Baptists, we are going to focus all that happens in that convention on the great cities of America,” Patterson said. “The focal organization of that presentation in the Southern Baptist Convention here in Atlanta — and a part of all that is going to happen during those days prior to that as we plant new churches all over the city — is going to be the North American Mission Board and its message.”
Baptist associations of 60 or more churches will be challenged to adopt another city in the nation of similar size, Patterson said, “and make a commitment that within 10 years they will see to it that there are as many churches in that city as there are in the sponsoring association.”
He noted how Dallas has about 365 churches in its association, while some other large cities may only have four or six. “How on earth can we stand before the judgment seat of Christ having been given the resources that we have and report such a thing to God?” he said. “I don’t want to be a part of that report. We have got to do this, and it’s going to take the associations to do it.”
The convention’s mega-churches also must play a role, he said. “I’m going to challenge the mega-churches of our country to be more missionary, not only in their giving but also in their direct missionary involvement,” he said, adding, “In so doing, I am going to risk some friendships, but I am going to do it anyway.”
Because of the strategic importance of New York City, Patterson floated a proposal for establishing a large Southern Baptist beachhead in Manhattan itself. He is praying God will provide between 12 and 20 businesspeople “with enormous resources” who jointly could buy an entire city block in the middle of the island. The property would be given to the North American Mission Board for 10 years, he suggested. The agreement from the benefactors would be that “if you (NAMB) don’t do anything with it in 10 years, then we’re going to take it back and sell it and get our money back. But if you do something with it in those 10 years then it is yours, and we have no claim to it.”
The North American Mission Board’s challenge during that time would be to plant a large church from the ground up, Patterson said, initially supplying a complete staff of effective leaders.
“I believe we can have a church in New York City running 5,000 or 6,000 in Sunday school in a matter of two or three years at the most,” he said. “And you say, ‘Why would you want to do that, particularly there?’ Because almost every visitor from around the world who comes to this country comes to New York City. … And folks, we have little witness.”
Patterson told of his own habit when he’s in New York City of taking time at about 5 or 6 p.m. to “just hang around the streets and talk to people about Jesus. In the evening, when the sun goes down, everybody has something to do, but still they’ll stop and talk to you.”
He told of one incident early in his ministry when he explored the streets of Greenwich Village late at night with a fellow pastor who had accompanied him to a conference. At about 1:30 a.m., they were confronted by a large, angry man who began shouting at them, asking them for money to feed his heroin addict.
A crowd had begun to gather, and Patterson finally had a chance to speak. “Here’s what I would like to do,” he said. “I’ll give you something that will make it possible for you to never need heroin again.” Patterson ended up sharing the gospel for about 10 minutes with him and others who had gathered, and the man prayed to accept Christ. A week later he called Patterson to let him know he was being baptized and joining a church.
“The thing I keep thinking about is there are about 8 or 9 million more just like him in New York City,” Patterson told NAMB trustees. “Can we actually avoid the risk of accountability to the judgment seat of Christ because we are comfortable in the confines of Southern Baptist churches? … Folks, we’ve got a sleeping giant of a denomination that we’ve got to wake up and mobilize.”

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  • James Dotson