ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) – Over the course of the last half century, North America has experienced rapid secularization and a persistently coarsening culture. Roughly 75 percent of North America’s 366 million people do not know Jesus, and entire communities exist that do not have a faithful, Gospel-preaching church.
This Sunday, March 27, Southern Baptist churches will recognize Church Planting Emphasis Sunday to highlight one of the most effective, long-term strategies for reaching those in North America who need Jesus.
Planting new, evangelistic churches provides the opportunity to impact neighborhoods for decades, and the strategy begins when churches plant churches. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) exists, in part, to help churches accomplish that mission through its church-planting arm, Send Network.
“When God moved us to Las Vegas, it was about the multiplication of the church across North America, starting with just one church,” said Vance Pitman, president of NAMB’s Send Network, of his family’s transition from the Southeast to Nevada to plant Hope Church. “Church planting is about making disciples and multiplying churches that have a heart for the nations.”
Church planting in North America offers myriad opportunities for reaching the nations as people from all parts of the globe continue moving to the United States and Canada. Increasingly, churches are discovering the chance to take the Gospel around the world without needing to go far beyond their doorstep.
The U.S. Census Bureau released data in 2015 indicating that 350 different languages are spoken in homes across the United States. While the world is coming to the U.S. and Canada, large swaths of North America’s population can easily be described as post-Christian or even pre-Christian. The share of the population that does not identify with any religion at all continues climbing with each passing generation.
“Our churches desperately need to focus on the primary task Jesus gave to His church,” said Johnny Hunt, NAMB’s senior vice president of evangelism and leadership. “Pastors and churches need to focus their congregations on sharing the Gospel, reaching the next generation and obeying the biblical mandate to plant new churches that proclaim the Gospel and reach people.”
NAMB comes alongside churches looking to plant a new church and can walk with them through every step of the process – helping to assess and prepare a church-planting missionary and then train, coach and care for the planter and his family as they start a new church in the mission field where God has called them.
“As churches emphasize church planting this Sunday, I want to encourage them to pray for our planters,” said NAMB president Kevin Ezell. “Missionaries always need prayer, but it is especially true when they are attempting to reach people and minister to new congregations in the face of the ongoing challenges that have arisen in the last few years.”
Despite the obstacles related to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Southern Baptists have risen to the challenge in a way that saw the number of churches planted in 2020 increase from the previous year. Aside from the pandemic year, Southern Baptists have also set records in their giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions in four of the last five years.
“The steps Southern Baptists are taking to increase their dedication to reaching North America should be celebrated,” Ezell said. “And the work is far from over. As churches recognize church planting this year, my hope is that they would continue to pray for more workers to go into the harvest. That is the greatest need we have: more missionaries who are willing to be sent by their churches – ready to answer Christ’s call to go.”
Every church can play an active role in church planting. Learn about your first steps here.