FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – During the annual North American Church Planting emphasis week on campus, March 25-27, Southwestern Seminary students learned that the desperate need for churches is not just overseas but also in America.
Stephen Davis, vice president for the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) South Region, said the need for churches is not obvious to those living in the Bible belt, where there is a Southern Baptist church for approximately every 3,000 people. But other areas of the country especially need Southern Baptist churches.
“It’s easy to think that life is like this everywhere else,” Davis cautioned students in chapel March 25.
But NAMB and church planters look elsewhere to places such as Canada, where there is only about one Southern Baptist church for every 118,000 people. In the northeastern United States, statistics indicate one for every 36,000 while the Midwest has one for every 15,000 people.
But NAMB has not let those numbers discourage them.
“It’s some of the greatest opportunities we’ve had to penetrate the lostness of North America,” Davis said. “It’s an exciting time. … We’re equipped, and we’re ready to send you.”
During the chapel service, Davis told students that all believers need an awareness of the lostness of people, a motivation that comes only from the love of Jesus Christ, and a sense of urgency.
“We don’t know how much time the lost have in North America and across the world,” Davis said.
During a free lunch Tuesday, Davis gave more details of how Southwestern students could get involved in serving in “Send Cities” across North America by being student missionaries, interns, church planter apprentices or church planters. Davis said those interested in getting involved in these unreached cities through NAMB can send in their applications and then be ready to go within just a few months.
At an event Tuesday night and a second lunch Wednesday, students heard testimonies from church planters and coordinators from areas such as Seattle, Arizona, New York, San Francisco, Indianapolis and Vancouver.
At the lunches, which filled up quickly, students had the opportunity to sit with church planters who answered their questions and gave information about that calling and the lifestyle.
“Go to where the lost people are,” advised Rich Johnstone, who lives in Oakland and serves the San Francisco Bay area, known as the graveyard for church plants.
Ray Woodard is stationed in Vancouver, where there are more than 3 million people. One of every three of those people was born outside of North America and only about 6 percent are churched. The college campus there can be considered an unreached people group with only about .4 percent of the students professing to be evangelical Christians.
“The commission is about reaching all people,” Woodard said. “Go where you can reach people most strategically.”
But Woodard said students should first make sure their motives are correct—that they are concerned about the people and not looking for an adventure.
“We want you to come,” Woodard said, “but we want you to come because you’re called to come.”
In the chapel service, Davis said the motivation should be the desire to be the beautiful feet in Romans 10 that bring the Gospel to the lost.
“If our feet don’t go, the message of Jesus doesn’t go,” Davis said.
Davis said NAMB is actively looking for church planters to help turn the tide against the lostness in areas across North America, where people desperately need to hear the Gospel, some even for the first time.
“There are people out there who haven’t accepted Jesus,” Davis said. “But neither have they rejected Him. They just haven’t heard.”
Tuesday through Thursday, church planters displayed exhibits at the Naylor Student Center and gave students information about different cities needing church planters and informed them how they could get involved.
“The week was a tremendous success,” said Steve Lee, professor of Baptist church planting.
“Students learned about church planting through Send North America and connected with key field partners from various regions of the continent. It was a God-glorifying time where students explored their calls to church planting in North America.”