Church planters’ task ‘unchanged,’ Harris says
Mickey Noah, North American Mission Board
March 10, 2010

Church planters’ task ‘unchanged,’ Harris says

Church planters’ task ‘unchanged,’ Harris says
Mickey Noah, North American Mission Board
March 10, 2010

ATLANTA — A sobering

state-of-North America message was voiced to 320 church planting missionaries

by the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) interim president during the 2010

Church Planting Missionary Forum, at which Baptist State Convention of North

Carolina church planter Ralph Garay was recognized as “Asian Church Planting

Missionary of the Year.”

“We have to ask ourselves is

what we’re doing working?” Richard Harris said. “Are we reaching North America?

The answer is no. We have 258 million lost people. That’s three out of every


Garay was among five church

planting missionaries recognized for outstanding service. A native Filipino, Garay

was instrumental in helping to start 25 churches last year.

Photo by John Swain

Ralph Garay, center, Asian church planting consultant and a member of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina church planting staff since 2006, was named “Asian Church Planting Missionary of the Year” during the North American Mission Board’s 2010 Church Planting Missionary Forum in Atlanta Feb. 24-27. Garay was recognized for his role in planting 25 new Asian churches in 2009. Presenting the award to Garay was Ken Weathersby, right, vice president-church planting for NAMB, and Van Kicklighter, left, NAMB’s church planting team leader for strategic planning and people groups.

While the North American

population is growing by 3 million people every year, Harris told the church

planting missionaries that “we’re not keeping up.” Among Southern Baptists in

particular, more than 70 percent of churches are either plateaued or declining,

Harris said, referencing research from New Orleans Baptist Theological


Harris noted the Great

Commission Resurgence Task Force’s (GCRTF) progress report released during the

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee’s Feb. 22-23 meeting in

Nashville, Tenn. The GCRTF proposals are expected to spur a significant

makeover of NAMB if they are embraced by SBC messengers, but Harris told the

missionaries they must “live in faith, not in fear.”

Harris cited the only words

spoken during the changing of the guard at The Tomb of the Unknowns at

Arlington National Cemetery — “Orders remain unchanged.”

“Missionaries, I say to you

that regardless of what the GCR recommendations are or are not, our orders from

Christ remain unchanged: go, teach, baptize and make disciples,” Harris said.

“We’ve got to get our

churches healthy and reproducing again. Churches that are healthy reproduce.

Healthy Christians, empowered by the Holy Spirit, reach new believers. Yet only

a small percent of our churches are involved in church planting.”

Harris told the missionaries

that much of what Southern Baptists do is not Kingdom-minded.

“I’ve been talking to folks

recently about faithfulness versus fruitfulness,” Harris said. “Jesus said, ‘Abide

in me and you will bear much fruit.’ We need to change the markers for success

in what we are doing. Too many people are satisfied to say that they travel so

many miles, teach so many classes or attend so many meetings and, therefore,

are successful.

“Let’s go past faithfulness,

although we need to be faithful in reading the Bible, singing the hymns,

attending services, loving the pastor, etc. But that’s not the definition of a

fruitful church. We need to get out of the church building into the culture and

into the world. Are we penetrating the culture and lostness, pushing back the

darkness, transforming the world?”

Harris said he agrees with

what Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren has preached for years: “Success in

the church is not how many you gather, but how many you scatter.”

Ken Weathersby, NAMB’s vice

president for church planting, told the church planters that North America is a

mission field of many cultures and languages, worldviews, population centers and

nearly 600 people groups.

“Our job requires

cross-cultural thinking and missiological strategizing,” Weathersby said.

Although 83 percent of the U.S. population — and 78 percent in Canada — live in

cities, Weathersby added that Southern Baptists cannot overlook the hamlets,

the villages, the suburbs, the cowboys, the bikers and other groups when it

comes to planting new churches.

“If under the GPS (God’s

Plan for Sharing) initiative, every believer shares and every person hears by

2020, we would have to plant 165,000 new churches to meet our needs. We have a

great challenge before us. If we’re going to reach North America, it’s time for

us to lay aside turfism, roll up our sleeves and as brothers and sisters in

Christ, not care who gets the credit as long as God gets the glory,” Weathersby


During the Feb. 24-27

conference at Atlanta’s Airport Westin Hotel, NAMB also honored five church

planting missionaries for outstanding service:

  • Ray Campbell of Ormond

    Beach, Fla., regional director for church planting with the Florida Baptist

    Convention, was named “African American Church Planting Missionary of the Year”

    for his work to start 12 new churches in 2009.

  • Native Filipino Ralph Garay,

    a member of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina church planting

    staff since 2006, was named “Asian Church Planting Missionary of the Year” for

    his role in planting 25 new church starts last year.

  • Dennis Holmes, director of

    missions for the Baptist Association of Greater Cincinnati with the State

    Convention of Baptists in Ohio, was named “Associational Director of

    Missions/Church Planting Strategist of the Year” for helping start five urban

    churches in 2009.

  • Samuel Rodriguez, a church

    planting strategist for the South Carolina Baptist Convention, was named “Hispanic

    Church Planting Missionary of the Year” for planting eight new Hispanic

    churches in 2009.

  • Sam Scott, a church planting

    missionary with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, was named “Anglo

    Church Planting Missionary of the Year” for his role in starting 12 new cowboy

    churches, plus a motorcycle church which now runs 400 and has recorded 100



is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)