CHICAGO – “I was raised in a place where there’s a Baptist church on every corner,” Sissy Franks said during a visit to Chicago.
“When I come here and I see this, then my heart is reminded that we have much to do,” said Franks, a trustee of the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
“To see the work of a church planter in places where they leave their home and family and come because of mission, vision and passion for sharing the gospel reminds me there is much to do – and everybody needs to be involved,” said Franks, a member of Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville, La.
Franks and other North American Mission Board trustees, in conjunction with their trustee meeting in Chicago on Oct. 10, saw firsthand the great need for churches and missionaries to reach the United States’ third-largest city for Christ.
Among the 8.7 million people in metro Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods, there are only 308 Southern Baptist churches, one for every 32,000 residents.
NAMB photo by Susan Whitley
North American Mission Board trustees and staff pray with leadership from Church of the Beloved, a church plant in Chicago’s University Heights neighborhood.
Trustees dedicated a day to visiting three Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) church planters who have recently begun new congregations in Chicago. In places like Wicker Park, the University District and Northlake, trustees saw eclectic and impoverished boroughs often within several blocks of each other.
Trustee Chuck Herring, pastor of First Baptist Church in Collierville, Tenn., recounted that “the thing that God said to my heart coming from the Deep South is I must never ever take the gospel for granted.”
“And I’ve got to teach my people not to take the gospel for granted,” he added.
Chicago encompasses 670,000 college students and is home to 2,000 people groups speaking 200 languages. Among the diversity, Southern Baptists are starting churches with multiplication built into their DNA.
Church planter David Choi, pastor of Church of the Beloved, hopes to start several churches throughout metro Chicago. He’s reaching a very diverse section of the city and mentoring younger planters to join forces.
“It’s amazing to have people from all over North America come here and pray for us,” Choi said of the trustees’ visit. “Our partnerships with Southern Baptists are what have made our work possible, and we are so grateful.”
As early as 1957, Chicago was included in the SBC’s “Big Cities” program and received funds for 10 church plants. Today, as a Send North America City, Chicago is still on the map as an urban center in spiritual need.
The need for more planters and more partnerships was apparent to trustee Rick Wyatt, a member of First Baptist Church of Brandon, Fla.
“I think as our church gets more involved in church planting, we have to relay to the congregation that it’s not a quick fix,” Wyatt said. “We need to encourage them to be involved in student missions, and continue through high school and college, if the numbers of church planters we need to start these churches will be available.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adam Miller is a writer for the North American Mission Board. For more information on NAMB’s Send North America: Chicago emphasis, visit www.namb.net/chicago.)