By Dennis Garcia
In January 2017 I stepped into my current role as a church planting catalyst with the North American Mission Board in Southern New Mexico. As I make my way around my area, I am constantly asked about the biggest challenge facing church planting in our state.
My go-to answer is always, “We don’t have enough church planters.”
In his report to the 2018 SBC Annual Meeting, Dr. Kevin Ezell stated the problem in a slightly different way. He shared that one of the biggest challenges facing the future of church planting is the lack of “qualified church planters.”
The word qualified makes a world of difference in the conversation about church planters.
After serving in this role for close to 2 years, I believe we have enough church planters to far exceed our every need. The problem is, they are sitting in our churches and sitting in our seminaries.
What we lack are church planters who have been encouraged and challenged in their call. We need to equip them for the work, deploying them with appropriate support and resources.
According to Dr. Ezell’s report, Southern Baptists need to plant 1,200 churches a year just to offset the 900 churches that close each year and to keep pace with the increase in population. If we desire to better the SBC church to population ratio (1:6,850 as of 2017), we must do better than 1,200.
What is it going to take for Southern Baptists to plant 1,200+ churches per year?
The biblical model for church planting is churches planting churches. Denominations, state conventions, and associations exist to support the local church in her God-given mission to make disciples of all nations, not to do it for her.
The goal of 1,200+ church plants a year will only happen if local churches understand their role and responsibility to multiply. Here are three simple ways you can mobilize your church for church planting.
First, we must pray. In Luke 10:2, Jesus told his followers, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”
We are living in Luke 10:2 times.
According to the latest Census figures, the United States of America has an estimated population of 325.7 million. This is an increase of nearly 2.4 million since 2016. The harvest is there. America has hit a record high population, and it is continuing to grow.
We must pray for God to send out workers into the harvest. Christians must seek his face on behalf of our cities and towns. The mighty movement of the Holy Spirit that creates church planting movements begins with God’s people crying out for revival.
Second, we must prepare. The role of church leaders as stated in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is to “[equip] the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.”
If we are going to plant 1,200+ churches a year, we, as church leaders, must be actively and intentionally identifying and equipping future church planters and church planting teams.
But there is another side of preparing that must also take place. This is the preparation to send some of our best leaders out as church planters and church planting teams.
If we are raising up church planters, then at some point we have to send them out. This is both a joy and a challenge. There is a cost to sending out your best.
As church leaders, we must do our best to prepare the congregation for the loss of leaders and finances while at the same time trusting God.
Third, we must partner. As local churches, we must partner together with other congregations, associations, state conventions and the national convention to resource and support our church planters.
One of the beautiful things about Southern Baptists is we understand we are better together.
Partnerships can come in many different shapes and sizes. Your church can partner through prayer or by sending resources. You can partner by committing to care for the church planter and his family. But you can partner by sending teams to help with block parties, VBS, or other outreach events.
Partnerships are so much more than just sending money.
The Greatest Need
Again, the greatest need in church planting is not a lack of church planters. I believe they are already sitting in our churches.
Our greatest need is for church leaders to help those whom God has called to discern and understand their calling. We need to equip them for their mission, and to support and resource them for the journey.
Dennis is the husband of Toni, father of Miranda and Kephas, and church planting catalyst serving in Southern New Mexico for the North American Mission Board.