The words on a t-shirt stood out and embedded themselves in church planter Reagan Wagoner’s memory: “I don’t want to go to Heaven. None of my friends will be there.” He noticed the shirt in a crowd following a Cincinnati Reds game.
The person wearing it was a young teenage girl, and it revealed a trend that Wagoner had started noticing about what was then his prospective mission field. Other regions of the United States could be called “unchurched.” The Midwest appeared to be rapidly becoming “de-churched.”
“We very quickly began to realize there was a generation here in Ohio that was going to get missed,” Wagoner said.
Now, in its seventh year since launching in 2015, Wagoner’s church, Grace Point Fellowship, has become a missional force, planting churches across Cincinnati and on track to give in the range of $400,000 this year to Southern Baptist cooperative efforts around the world.
The church reported baptizing more than 100 people in its first five years and has become a key force for multiplication across the Cincinnati-Dayton metro area. Outreach Magazine named Grace Point one of its top-100 reproducing churches in the United States, having supported 25 church plants by training the lead planters or providing financial support to the plant. In most instances, Grace Point did both.
“God has put Grace Point here to be a hub location that plants other churches,” Wagoner said, and the church would not have been able to make such an impact as quickly as it has without the help of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
Through the support of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio and sister churches in the area, Grace Point has become a symbol of cooperation as Southern Baptists have sent both financial resources and mission teams to help the church establish itself in the community.
“We are a representation of the best part of what the SBC is,” Wagoner said. “We could not have done this without God or without the brotherhood that is our churches working together to plant churches.”
From its inception, Grace Point gave portions of its budget to Southern Baptist causes through the Cooperative Program and Great Commission Giving, but as the congregation became financially self-sustaining, members took their missions giving to another level.
In 2021, the church’s missions giving is going to the Cooperative Program, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and directly to church plants Grace Point is supporting in its region and across the nation.
Jeremy Westbrook, who was recently elected executive director of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, said Grace Point is a model for churches in his state.
“I have watched the hand of the Lord upon Reagan and the Grace Point family for several years,” Westbrook said. “Coming into my new position, my prayer is that what I have seen and witnessed through this church will be multiplied across our entire state. It does not matter the age or the size, every church has the potential to be a multiplying church.”
Grace Point Fellowship only became a reality after a church south of Nashville, Tenn., decided it was time to engage more in church planting across North America. Wagoner was serving on staff as missions pastor for 12 years at Thompson Station’s Church in Thompson’s Station, Tenn.
He started visiting different cities and regions across North America like Tucson, Ariz., and Las Vegas to help support church plants in those cities, but it was during vision trips to the Cincinnati area that he and his family began to sense a burden to go.
“God was calling us to reach Cincinnati,” Wagoner recalled. “Thompson’s Station, in 26 or 27 years had never planted a church. I told my pastor about feeling called, and Thompson’s Station sent us out. We were able to plant a church out of our basement.”
Wagoner said seeing his sister’s family relocate overseas with their two kids to become International Mission Board missionaries changed his perspective on what God might be leading his own family to do.
“This isn’t just something we golf clap for,” Wagoner said. “This is something we participate in fully. Everybody is called to something, and church planting was the thing for us.”
Since the Wagoners moved and started planting the church, Grace Point has seen lives changed. One couple began attending when the church first started meeting in its new building. They found healing for themselves and their marriage, and now they will be part of the core team of one church plant Grace Point will soon send out.
Another woman stopped by a nearby McDonald’s to use the WiFi and felt like she should walk over to the church where she got to know some of the ladies there. She wound up coming to Christ.
A focus on building God’s kingdom and seeing lives changed by the gospel has led Grace Point to become a launching pad for other church planting missionaries looking to start new churches in the greater Cincinnati area. The congregation has developed a strong multiplication pipeline for Send Network Ohio that will help Southern Baptists expand the gospel’s reach in the state.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without the partnership of NAMB, Send Network and other SBC churches,” Wagoner said. “Now we are equipped with resources and funding, and we have the opportunity to pay it forward.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.)