Despite the hardships of 2020 – and the inevitable continued challenges the pandemic brings – Blue Valley Baptist Church is sending out its first church planter next month.
This sentiment has been shared by pastors throughout North America: “Last year was the hardest year in my pastoral experience.”
From cultural division to a tumultuous election season and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic, last year was hard on everyone, including Pastor Derrick Lynch, lead pastor of Blue Valley.
“I’ve been in full-time, vocational ministry since 1989 and a full-time lead pastor since 1996, and it’s by far the most difficult season I’ve ever gone through. We’re in a very divided climate, and it’s been hard to get everyone to keep their eyes on the most important things,” Lynch said.
Though it was his most difficult year in ministry, Lynch led the congregation to rally around its first church-planting team.
“This will be our first church plant in the over 42-year history of our church. It will launch the week after Easter,” Lynch said. “We met North American Mission Board missionary Nathan Chang through another church we knew. The pastor at that church believed we could be of help to him, so they put us in contact with one another. This happened around the time we were developing our mission and vision to be a multiplying church. We helped him develop relationships in our church and recruit for his plant, and we commissioned them in January. It’s going to be a suburban church plant in our area.”
Blue Valley Baptist Church will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2028, and the church’s leadership began dreaming about what kind of church they wanted to be at that point in their history.
“We reached a crossroads where we realized we were either going to build a suburban church and tell everyone to come here, or we could begin branching out and have smaller, more community-based ministries through campuses and plant churches in areas we might not be able to reach,” Lynch said.
When leaders introduced the plan to the church, there was genuine excitement, and then the pandemic struck and pushed pause on the operation. For about a year, the vision remained words on paper, but eventually the church began raising money and preparing the team to plant.
Members look forward to launching Chang and his church-planting team in April as they start Image Fellowship southwest of downtown Kansas City.
“There’s no doubt COVID-19 has presented challenges to planting Image Fellowship,” Chang said in written comments, “but we also remind ourselves that horrible disasters and persecutions have failed to stop the advancement of the kingdom of God in the last 2,000 years, so we remain diligent in obeying God’s call.”
For Blue Valley Baptist, the Lord has provided other opportunities to be part of God’s mission throughout North America and beyond.
“We’re also in the process of taking steps toward planting a Hispanic mission out of our campus in Olathe,” Lynch said. “We’re making arrangements to have a specific elder oversee that. Once that elder is identified, we’ll begin to vet potential church planters and start that this fall.”
A lot has been stripped away in the last year, but perhaps that has caused the church to evaluate what’s most important and join God in His mission in new ways.
March 21 is church planting emphasis Sunday for the Southern Baptist Convention. One of NAMB’s primary ministry areas is to help churches and church planters take the step of planting churches everywhere for everyone through the Send Network.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – March 21 is Church Planting Emphasis Sunday in the SBC. Shar Walker writes for the North American Mission Board.)