Messengers to this year’s annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) enjoyed a unique opportunity to hear from partnership leaders during live interviews held throughout the meeting in the exhibit hall.
Michael Sowers, senior consultant for the Office of Great Commission Partnerships, hosted the interviews with leaders representing each of the national and international partnerships associated with his office. Chuck Register, church planting and missions development executive leader, also conducted some of the interviews, which took place in the exhibit hall Nov. 12-13.
Boston, and the interior of the I-495 loop around Boston, is home to 4.5 million people. Within this metropolitan area are 100 Southern Baptist churches and cities as large as 100,000 that have no gospel-preaching church.
“For many people, there’s no framework. It’s not even on the radar,” said Josh Wyatt, a Boston church planter. Some adults in Boston have never even heard the message of the gospel.
BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Mike Sowers, left, senior consultant for the Office of Great Commission Partnerships at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, leads a question and answer time about unreached, unengaged people groups with Joe Dillon, center, missional church strategist at the International Mission Board, and Mark Harrison, missions pastor of Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.
The greater Boston area is also home to about 250,000 college students, most of whom are not believers.
“You can reach the world when you reach the campuses in Boston,” said Curtis Cook, pastor of Hope Fellowship Church and city coordinator for the North American Mission Board’s Send Boston initiative.
Cook encouraged N.C. Baptist churches to pray about becoming long-term partners with Boston church planters.
“Please pray for the longevity of church planters,” he said. “It’s a slow process and you have to work some hard soil. Church planting is not just build it and they will come.”
Send North America
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), shared about NAMB’s goal to plant 1,500 churches a year and the missionary “Farm System” NAMB is launching to help plant these new churches.
The “Farm System” will allow potential church planters, pastors and ministry leaders to serve alongside mentors in a context specific to their ministry area. From student missionaries to interns and church planting apprentices, the goal is to help train and equip the next generation of leaders to effectively advance the gospel. “We need more church planters, but at the same time we have to raise the bar of the criteria we expect in a church planter,” Ezell said.
Ezell also spoke to the importance of long-term partnerships. “A perfect partnering church or sending church is one that desires a very tight relationship. Planters want more than anything the connectivity; they need continual contact from a pastor or someone on that staff,” he said. Ezell encouraged Southern Baptists to utilize technology and the modern conveniences of travel to begin forming partnerships with churches and church planters in areas all across the nation.
“There are no limits. It’s amazing to me still that you can get on a plane and in just an hour be in such a drastically different context,” he said. “It’s a different day, and we need to take advantage of that.”
To learn more about the church planting “Farm System” through NAMB, visit namb.net.
With 8 million people, Toronto provides a daunting task for church planters. “It’s ripe,” said Brett Porter, part of the Toronto church planting network.
Porter was joined by Andrew Lamme, NAMB church planting consultant, in saying their work will be a “journey.”
“We want to see this area, this neighborhood impacted for the gospel,” Porter said.
Partnering with NAMB and N.C. Baptists will help them mentor, disciple and train new leaders. Funding is also a major concern. Since Lamme was raised in Toronto, he knows the challenges they face.
When he visits North Carolina, he sees numerous churches, but in Toronto churches are rare. Churches with facilities are even more unique.
First, they recommend forming a prayer team followed by sending a vision team to survey the area and meet with local leaders.
Porter said the partnership will work better if both sides jump in the deep end of the pool together “instead of wading in the shallow end.”
They mentioned the need for long-term commitments, because their goal is to plant a multiplying church. Toronto is creating a hub where planters can network and share resources allowing them to take ownership of their church plants.
“We don’t have to worry about encroaching on other people’s territory,” Lamme said.
The idea, Lamme said, is to “church the area, not just have church.”
The effects of Hurricane Sandy affected the course of the New York interviews with Steve Allen, NAMB catalyst; George Russ, executive director of Metro New York Baptist Association (MNYBA); and Jae Lee, pastor of Ebenezer Mission Church in Oakland Gardens, New York.
Russ mentioned that several of MNYBA’s churches are “right in the middle of efforts” to help victims of the superstorm. MNYBA has a paypal account link on its website so funds can be donated toward the relief efforts. In one church 31 families were flooded, Russ said. Of those, 19 families were permanently displaced.
A bivocational pastor lost his work vehicles so his livelihood is in jeopardy. “Other communities are trying to help,” said Russ, and MNYBA is working to provide training for people so they can help others.
While Sandy affected some of Ebenezer’s members, Lee’s church has mainly been trying to pool resources within the community to help neighbors.
The storm has given them “an opportunity to share the Word of God and love of God with people,” Lee said.
Within a 75-mile radius of Times Square in New York City, Allen said there are numerous big cities, “some of which have been hit really, really hard by the hurricane.”
When Register asked Allen about the landscape for New York church planting, he shared stories about where there is a lack of churches.
On Staten Island, there is one Southern Baptist church. In Jersey City, population 300,000 plus, there is one Southern Baptist church.
Allen challenged N.C. Baptists “to think about ways to be co-laborers” for N.Y. church plants.
With New York’s diversity, Allen said church planting has opened doors to ministry around the world.
“It’s been a blessing,” Allen said.
A church that reaches a Japanese person in New York could, in fact, reach that Japanese person’s family in Japan.
Russ called the relationship between New York and North Carolina “two-way, reciprocal” and “mutually beneficial” because Russ also comes to N.C. to help train leaders on reaching a more diverse population within the state.
Unreached, unengaged people groups (UUPG) are the main focus for the International Mission Board (IMB). The Office of Great Commission Partnerships also helps churches move toward adopting a UUPG.
Sowers interviewed Joe Dillon, IMB missional church strategist, and Mark Harrison, missions pastor at Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. The Baptist State Convention and IMB have done several stories about Old Town’s partnership with the T people, a UUPG in Asia. See stories at ncbaptist.org or BRnow.org.
John Miron, president of the Baptist Union of Moldova, thanked N.C. Baptists for their involvement in helping them with ministry.
A vision team was there in October to encourage Moldovan pastors and inspire N.C. pastors to catch a vision for the Moldovan people. Miron shared about the many unreached villages in Moldova. The dream is to raise up missionaries to go to areas where there is little evangelical work. There also are many Moldovan pastors and church leaders who struggle to make a living.
Moldovan Baptist leaders are also focusing on reaching younger generations.
“We have a lot of children with no parents,” said Miron, who hopes N.C. Baptists will bring mission teams to help with camps for the children, and help provide training for Moldovans to lead the camps.
For information on how your congregation can become involved in partnerships with church planters in Boston, metro New York, Toronto and Moldova through the Office of Great Commission Partnerships, contact Michael Sowers at [email protected] or visit www.ncbaptist.org/gcp.