North Carolina Baptists contribute significantly to the Send North America cities they partner with through the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) Office of Great Commission Partnerships.
“By far, North Carolina is our most prolific partner,” said John Ramirez, associate executive director for Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA).
Ramirez was among several partnership representatives from New York (Ramirez, Kevin Cabe and Steve Allen), Boston (David Butler), Toronto (Dave Strobel and Andrew Lamme), Baltimore (Ron Larson and Marcus Redding) and South Asia (Chase Tozer*) who spoke at a Nov. 3 breakfast sponsored by the Office of Great Commission Partnerships before the start of the second day of the BSC’s annual meeting.
“We also want to see our established churches flourish,” Ramirez said, emphasizing care for church plants also. Ramirez expressed a need for youth ministers and leaders to facilitate Disciple Now weekends and trainings for leaders.
BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Participants of the Office of Great Commission Partnerships breakfast surround Marcus Redding, center, to pray for him and his work in Baltimore. Redding was a pastor at Hull’s Grove Baptist Church in Vale.
One of those church planters was Cabe, who spent the first 26 years of his life in North Carolina.
Cabe said he learned about opportunities in New York by reading the Biblical Recorder. He has been featured in previous BR stories for his church planting efforts.
Now Cabe is the partnership coordinator for MNYBA. With a population of 22 million, Cabe said there remains much work.
One of the churches has baptized more than 1,000 people. It targets Chinese restaurant works.
“It’s incredible to see what God is doing among that people group,” said Cabe, who said MNYBA wants to strengthen established churches and offer ways to help those churches and new plants as well.
They have 24 planters signed on for a pilot program. MNYBA is offering accounting services, legal advice, website design and more to help these churches.
“We believe that New York City is such a strategic place,” he said. “We believe God is bringing the people to our doorsteps.”
Allen, the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send New York coordinator, says the priority is to plant churches. They are working with 65 church planters in various stages.
With 290 neighborhoods and several counties where there is still not access to the gospel, Allen requested partners to pray four days a week for five minutes a day for one neighborhood.
“The work that you do does count for the Kingdom,” Allen said. “Don’t ever, ever, ever take for granted the potential that is sitting in your pews.”
Messengers to the annual meeting and across North Carolina donated around 7,000 coats for Coats for the City, an outreach ministry in New York to meet a physical need for churches across the city.
God meant it for good
Larson spent 34 years as a pastor until two years ago when he became the Send city coordinator for Baltimore.
“I went into a city where we needed desperately to beat the devil back to hell,” Larson said. “I was astounded as I walked the streets and realized that people have no clue that Jesus Christ can redeem their lives.”
It was that lostness that broke Larson’s heart and caused him to leave his church plant that had grown to seven sites.
Two years ago, the largest Southern Baptist church in Baltimore had 150 people on Sunday morning, Larson stressed that only 2.2 percent of the population in that area claims to be evangelical.
This spring, Larson said most N.C. Baptists probably know there were riots that broke out in his city.
“What the devil meant for harm, God meant for good,” Larson stressed. “What we have seen is an explosion of not only new church plants,” but baptisms, especially this summer.
One of the people who came to Baltimore was from North Carolina. Marcus Redding, former pastor of Hull’s Grove Baptist Church in Vale, thanked Steve Hardy, who leads the Office of Great Commission Partnerships, and Chuck Register, BSC executive leader for church planting and mission partnerships, for their friendship and mentoring.
It was Redding’s friendship with a woman in his N.C. congregation who spent 50 years in Baltimore that inspired his move.
“That relationship helped me to see the brokenness of that city and the need of that city,” Redding said.
He and his wife moved to Baltimore two months ago. He is coaching and training planters.
“All of us know the Great Commission,” he said. “We all know we need to reach the world.”
‘Need is staggering’ in Boston
After a 1985 trip with his wife, Butler said “Boston just got in our soul.”
While they didn’t move until about a year ago, Butler said he always thought “maybe someday God might allow us to serve in Boston.”
With 5.8 million people in greater Boston and 14.6 million around the Baptist Convention of New England, there are only 357 Southern Baptist churches.
“The need is staggering,” he said.
Netcast Church, which is led by Matt Chewning, a pastor with N.C. ties, averages 600 on Sundays. During a recent service, 27 people were baptized.
Partners have been a huge part of Boston’s surge of churches. Ten years ago 95 percent of church plants failed. Today, 85-90 percent of plants are sustaining themselves after five years.
“People have come along and breathed life into” our church planters, Butler said.
Among the nations
Dave Strobel moved his family just outside Toronto about four months ago from Southern California.
The former youth pastor started a church just over a month ago. With 20 core people, the first service attracted 30 people. Members had canvassed the neighborhood with 6,000 flyers.
“I was thinking just one person,” said Strobel, but four families have continued coming. “We’re excited about those four families because they’re all broken.”
The area they are trying to reach is about 750,000 people with 49 percent identifying as first-generation immigrants. As a suburban community, there are a lot of young families, which is what The Journey Church is trying to reach.
Canadians are “a funny bunch,” said Andrew Lamme, church planting catalyst for Send Toronto. “We want to look like and pretend like we’re American but heaven forbid, don’t ever call us American.”
Lamme said there are 34 N.C. churches partnering with churches in and around Toronto. With 60 churches in the greater Toronto area, 40 of those congregations are five years and younger.
“We don’t have churches of hundreds and thousands,” Lamme said. “We have churches one person or one family at a time. You’re helping us move the gospel farther ahead, the Kingdom farther ahead.”
Lamme stressed the need for partners to come alongside these church planters. He thanked N.C. Baptists and requested prayer.
“Be praying for the lostness and brokenness in North America,” Lamme said. “There are too many people dying that have never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus.”
Chase Tozer* spent the last 10 years on the other side of the world. He grew up on a hog farm outside a small town in Missouri.
Being in Southeast Asia, Tozer has seen God doing “some amazing things” in an area where much less than two percent of the population know Christ.
“Every year 12.6 million are marching towards hell,” Tozer said. “That’s a hard reality to work in.”
When Tozer was trying to learn the language and establish churches, his language teacher expressed a desire to plant churches too.
“From that day forward we dedicated our lives to teaching nationals to plant churches,” he said.
“These days we’re not just seeing a movement of God, we’re seeing movements multiply in various places across [that region].
“We’re standing on the shoulders of guys like William Carey that started that prayer movement 200 years ago and worked seven years for one convert.”
In one state in India, seven out of 10 people are accepting Jesus the first time they hear about Him, Tozer said. “It’s the Lord’s timing more than anything else,” he said.
One of the churches these nationals have planted is in Charlotte.
“We’re seeing the task remain the same – God calling all of us to join Him in that Great Commission as it’s multiplying around the world,” he said.
Tozer and his family had to move back to the United States a couple of years ago after his son hit his head and developed epilepsy.
He urged the attendees to “keep in mind the task is constant; God is calling us. He’s calling you and your church.”
He asked for prayers for the International Mission Board in the changes that are happening with recent request for volunteers to come back and find other employment.
Nations are coming
With 154 distinct people groups living in the eight urban centers in North Carolina, Register said the BSC is starting the Peoples Next Door NC initiative.
“We want to help facilitate your church in engaging them here in the state but in the partner areas,” he said. “We want you to help you go back to their homeland … reaching them for the cause of Christ.”
Register led the group to gather around each of the partner representatives to close in prayer.
The Office of Great Commission Partnerships also used its booth in the exhibit hall during the BSC annual meeting to have a drawing for ball caps from some of the partner areas as well as a few partial and one full scholarship to a North American partner city. There was also a partial scholarship to Southeast Asia.
Kelli Creswell, MNYBA church planting administrator, also attended the breakfast.