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Western-U.S. church-planting movement envisioned by new Golden Gate prof

DENVER (BP)–Living in the Rocky Mountains demands risk-taking, whether it’s skiing down the mountains or “growing up” some churches, said church planter D. Allan Karr.

“We’re in a world filled with risk,” Karr, assistant professor of church planting at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, said. “Some Christian workers think about what is the safe and prudent decision in a situation so they make sure they have a job the next day. We think it’s OK to go into a town and start a church even when it doesn’t make human sense.”

Karr, based at the Golden Gate’s Rocky Mountain Campus in suburban Denver, serves as the seminary’s Nehemiah Project director. The program is a joint venture between the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board and the seminary to train and mentor church planters through a combination of classroom instruction and extended internships.

Before coming to Golden Gate last summer, Karr planted Castle Valley Community Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Castle Rock, Colo., in 1995.

“Everything at the church was a great experience,” he recounts. “As I got exposed to books and articles on church planting beginning in the early 1980s, God just began to grow in me a heart for that concept. The more I got interested, the more I read, and the more I read, the more I got interested.”

Karr also pastored churches in Georgia, Florida and Missouri before moving to Colorado. The Nehemiah Project’s vision statement says that the program envisions “global impact by multiplying systems for mobilizing an army of apostolic leaders with a heart and eye for reaching the nations.” It aims to be a partnership between the North American Mission Board, the seminaries and state conventions to train and mentor church planters.

“I envision a church-planting movement that is culturally contextual to the West and is represented by an army of church planters in reproducing churches,” he said. “Churches in the West need to match the culture of the West, and it’s great that most of these church planters are indigenous to the West. There’s a pioneer spirit, a substance and an informality about them.”

In addition to teaching at the Rocky Mountain campus, Karr teaches church-planting classes at Golden Gate’s residential campus near San Francisco and at the seminary’s regional campuses in Phoenix, Ariz., Brea, Calif., and Vancouver, Wash.

“The seminary had the idea to base me at the Rocky Mountain campus to diversify and spread out the resources it has,” he noted. “But we plan to implement the classes and programs necessary to train church planters at all campuses.”

The Mill Valley, Brea and Pacific Northwest (Vancouver, Wash.) campuses all have church-planting concentrations in their master of divinity programs, and Karr said there are currently 70 Golden Gate students at all campuses signed up through the Nehemiah Project. Not only is he cultivating relationships with the students, but he is also working with 10 Baptist conventions in the western United States.

In the denomination’s Annie Armstrong Easter Offering promotional materials, NAMB spotlighted Karr and others for a multimedia publicity and prayer campaign. In addition to his present responsibilities, he also is chairman of the board of directors for the High Impact Church Planters Network and has been leading church-planting seminars and training sessions in the Colorado convention.

“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,” said William O. “Bill” Crews, president of Golden Gate, about the Nehemiah Project.

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