Church planting is not new or something special to our day of ministry. Here in Nevada and across the Southern Baptist Convention, Jesus-centered, gospel-purposed church planting as well as church revitalization have long been at our roots.
All of this came to mind as I had the honor of attending LaVern Inzer’s funeral service in Elko, Nev., in January. Some of us have known LaVern as Pastor Inzer or, like me, Reverend Inzer.
He served in the Navy during World War II in the South Pacific and had two aircraft carriers sink on him during battles. Post-war, he attended college and then Golden Gate Theological Seminary (now Gateway Seminary).
In 1959, he was called to Winnemucca, Nev., by a small group of people brought together by Leonard Siegel, who served all of northern Nevada at the time as director of missions.
Siegel challenged LaVern to come to northern Nevada and its 500,000 square miles to start churches. He gladly took the challenge, and at the beginning he took several side jobs to be able to pastor. He simply had a desire to share the gospel with everyone – from ranchers and miners to migrant workers – and would not give up regardless of the challenge.
As he began planting churches, he became known far and wide as a circuit riding preacher much like days of old. He would travel 1,000 miles a week across northern Nevada, and many of those roads were not paved. In 1998, he was recognized as the Nevada State Citizen of the Year for his service to those in need.
Reverend Inzer possibly was the most prolific church planter in the history of Nevada Baptist Convention. One is hard-pressed to find a church in central and northeastern Nevada that LaVern Inzer did not plant or play a major role in seeing it planted.
But for me there is so much more to the story. You see, Reverend Inzer was the first person I ever heard speak about the loving grace of Jesus.
This determined man did not accept rejection when he traveled to Crescent Valley, Nev., to plant a church. He wouldn’t accept rejection from my father, but continued to visit in our home. That was just the beginning of how God would use LaVern in my family to see our lives turned for Jesus.
From that first visit, little did he know that my father would surrender to preach and also plant churches. Little did he know that I, a 4-year old boy, would later surrender to preach and plant churches and now serve pastors in Nevada. How could he know that his calling would lead to my two sons’ own surrender to preach, one serving with the International Mission Board and the other serving a church in Nevada.
No, he just knew the gospel call to plant churches and held true to that call.
I will miss Reverend Inzer on this earth, but I look forward to my reunion with him in glory. But for now, with joy, I return to my roots and desire to be focused and determined to plant more churches so that the next Kevin White can hear the gospel, maybe for the first time.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kevin White is executive director of the Nevada Baptist Convention. This article first appeared in The Nevada Baptist newsletter.)