Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary cast a vision for missions and mobilized students to plant churches throughout the continent during the seminary’s North American Church Planting Emphasis, March 27-29. Featured speaker Aaron Coe, vice president of mobilization at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) provided the latest information on NAMB’s approaches and discussed how students can get involved.
“It was phenomenal. God really blessed the whole process,” Professor of Baptist Church Planting Steve Lee said. Students and faculty members were able to hear from and speak with Coe and other NAMB missionaries and directors who work throughout the United States. These NAMB field partners visited classrooms and advised students during luncheons and evening events filled with praise, prayer and church planting education.
“Students really enjoyed it. What I think was really good was that students were able to connect face-to-face with field partners,” said master’s student Peter Vavrosky, president of the seminary’s Church Planting Fellowship. One college student spoke with and learned from a field partner who works in Boston, where he plans to proclaim the Gospel this summer. The emphasis also piqued students’ interest in the Church Planting Fellowship.
During the first chapel of the week, Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, highlighted the great need in this continent for church planters. The nations, he said, are coming to North America and Texas, presenting Baptists with great opportunities to share the Gospel.
“Here in North America, we have an incredible move of people into our nation, and North American church planting is an exceptional challenge for all of us,” Richards said. He noted that, according to the 2010 census, 2.6 million Muslims live in the United States, with nearly 400,000 living in Texas and 100,000 in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. The Asian population in Texas comprises 3.8 percent of the Texas population, and nearly 330 languages are spoken throughout the state.
“Texas has become an incredible cosmopolitan gathering of the peoples of this world,” Richards said. “And we're challenged here in Texas to do more for the Lord Jesus and here in North America to reach the people that God has sent to our doors. Because, you see, right now there are more believers in China than there are in the United States. And we're rapidly becoming a secularized, lost nation, and the only way we are going to reach them is through giving out the Gospel and planting new churches.”
Preaching from Acts 10, Richards urged students to “embrace the unengaged, across the street or around the world.” The story of Cornelius’ conversion, he said, shows that God works both in the hearts of the unreached and in the hearts of those whom he is calling to proclaim the Gospel. He appealed to Southwestern Seminary students to examine their hearts and their willingness to share the Gospel wherever God may call them.
“Are you willing,” Richards asked, “to go and plant a church in a hard place in North America? You know the reason that these people are unengaged around the world is because they live in war-torn countries, because they live on mountaintops or in deep jungles. They live in out-of-the-way places. But there also are pockets all across North America where some of these people groups—who are unengaged and definitely unreached—live, and we have this opportunity before us. But, you see, God can't change them unless he changes us. Are you willing today to let God change you?”