“An army of men and women from all walks of life” are needed to plant churches throughout the nation and world, said Ray Woodard, a mentor to church planters in Vancouver, at a Southwestern Seminary luncheon, March 27. Woodard spoke at one of four events co-sponsored by Southwestern and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) during the seminary’s annual North American Church Planting Week.

Woodard moved with his wife, Patsy, to Vancouver in 1988 to become the pastor of Towers Baptist Church, a small church that nine believers called home. As the Spirit blessed Woodard’s ministry and the congregation grew, Towers Baptist began to support more church plants throughout Vancouver, responding to the unique needs of the city’s diverse cultures. In 2008, Woodard began working as a local church planting coach and has since seen a growth of over 60 new church plants. When NAMB began the Send City initiative, a program under which mission work has been prioritized in 32 key cities in North America, Woodard accepted the position as Vancouver’s Send City missionary.

When he first moved to Vancouver, Woodard said, he “discovered that the world was there—a massive, diverse city of people primarily born outside of Canada.” In regard to church planting, Vancouver is considered a demographically challenging city, he said—only Dubai, Brussels and Toronto are more diverse. “The one thing that’s missing in the heart of that city is the Gospel,” he said.

“What would success in Vancouver look like?” he recalled thinking. “What are we going to measure to know we are seeing the glory of God at work?”

Woodard said there are four metrics “worth staking your life and the glory of God on”: Are there new believers in that place? Are new disciple makers being raised up? Are new communities of faith beginning to sprout up? And finally, are communities being transformed?

“That’s why you plant churches—sharing the Gospel,” he said. “You walk with church planters and train them and see new communities of faith.”

Woodard urged anyone interested in church planting to contact NAMB, then undergo an assessment “to help you determine the strength and surety of your call,” followed by a training track. “We’ll dialogue with you, we’ll explore with you what God is guiding you to.”

“Then, when you hit the ground, we want you to have a church behind you—we want you to have multiple churches behind you,” he said. “We also want you to have a coach to be beside you, to help you make it for the first three years, as well as some people beside you—a support team.”

When God’s name is glorified, dramatic changes are seen in urban environments, bringing an array of improvements in education and other social conditions, and church planters are playing a vital role, he said. “I pray that you who are undecided will plant churches wherever you go.”

In addition to the luncheon with Woodard, Southwestern’s Church Planting Week also featured a luncheon with church planting missionaries, the annual Fellowship of North American Church Planters Banquet, and a free pizza dinner and Q&A with NAMB church planters. All of these events were designed to invite Southwestern students to consider a career in North American church planting.