PORTLAND, Ore. — Like most other things in 2020, church planting looked different. But thanks to a strong network of support and a cadre of resilient church planters, Southern Baptists planted 588 new churches, an increase of 36 over the previous year.
Ricardo Barber planted one of those new churches. He moved to Portland, Ore., in 2019, sent out by First Rock Fellowship in Aubrey, Texas. Once there, he connected with a church in the neighborhood on the verge of closing its doors. As their pastor began transitioning to retirement, what remained of the congregation joined Barber to become One HOPE Fellowship.
Forced to meet virtually during 2020, Barber’s church plant jumped into frontline ministry. They hosted a food bank and an after-school tutoring program. They provided $40,000 in rental assistance to nearby residents, which included financial training.
“It connects us with families in the community, and some of these families are actually starting to come to One HOPE,” Barber said. “We spend time with them every day, and it casually opens up conversations about why we do what we do.”
Their church also partnered with a local ministry to provide a free medical clinic. They hosted training opportunities, equipping community residents with skills needed for employment. This summer, the church is planning a program for students that will include mentoring, meals and tutoring.
“Our heart is to reach people with Jesus so they can be disciples. The heart of what we do is making disciples,” Barber said. “We want to teach them how to live life on God’s terms.”
One HOPE Fellowship was one of 588 churches Southern Baptists planted in 2020, an increase from the 552 started in 2019. In addition, 143 churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and 126 new church campuses were started. The SBC began tracking new campus starts in 2019, in part to help better assess the need for new churches.
In total, 857 new congregations were added to the SBC in 2020. Of the plants, 60 percent were non-Anglo.
“Churches plant churches, and in 2020, it was amazing to see that Southern Baptists plant so many in the midst of a pandemic,” said North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell. “Our focus is on starting strong, evangelistic churches. I’m less concerned with yearly counts. Right now, 80 percent of church plants are still active and ministering after four years. That’s incredibly encouraging. This wouldn’t be possible without the faithfulness of Southern Baptists who both fund and send missionaries who start churches in places where the Gospel is desperately needed.”
Other new churches overcame challenges and reached their communities just like Barber in Portland.
- Andy Duke launched Christ Church Windsor near Fort Collins, Colo., in January 2020 after being sent out by Christ Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C. Eight weeks later, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down in-person gatherings. After 12 weeks of online services, the church started meeting in a local park.
The young church baptized six people during the pandemic, including a man who joined the service after noticing the service in the park during a Sunday morning walk.
- In Ohio, Ben Mangrum planted Inspiring Hope Church in Hamilton, near Cincinnati. Mangrum had served as executive pastor at Crescent Valley Baptist Church in Tahlequah, Okla., before the congregation sent him to plant. The church launched in 2020 and saw salvations even without face-to-face gatherings.
In-person services began this year on Easter, and at the beginning of May, the church hosted a “Next Steps” lunch for those looking to learn more about the church.
“A wife and a husband gave their lives to Christ. We are very excited about what God is doing,” Mangrum said.
Since 2010, Southern Baptists have planted more than 8,700 new churches. Ezell said the biggest challenge in church planting is the need for more planters.
“We could help churches plant another 100 more churches this year if we had the qualified planters to do it,” Ezell said. “We have the resources and a great network. We all need to ask the Lord of the harvest to send more workers.”