FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) -- Students at Southwestern Seminary were challenged with the expansive lostness of the United States and Canada during the seminary’s North American Church Planting Week, March 29-April 1. Through chapel messages, in-class presentations and two free lunch gatherings, seminary faculty and Baptist state convention representatives shared with students how they can be involved in reaching the nearly 100 million unchurched people in North America both while they are in seminary and after they graduate.
“We are in a changing world that is rapidly moving,” said Harry Lewis, vice president for Partnership Missions & Mobilization at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), during a chapel service.
Lewis spoke of NAMB’s strategic focus on major cities in North America. Following the message, Southwestern president Paige Patterson said the seminary is in the preliminary stages of developing a plan to help plant 50 churches in a North American metropolitan city.
Tim Patterson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., and chairman of NAMB’s board of trustees, preached in chapel from Prov. 3:5-8, instructing students to trust in the Lord rather than themselves.
“There is a world out there in North America that knows not the name of Jesus,” Tim Patterson said. “It is our responsibility not to do the easy and comfortable thing but, by faith, to rely on His lordship and go where others will not go.”
Dave Howeth, Starting Churches Team Leader for the Montana Southern Baptist Convention, was on campus with teammate and Montana church planter William Johnson. Howeth and Johnson spoke in classes and met with students individually to discuss ministry opportunities in their frontier state. Montana offers summer internships as well as 12- and 24-month residency programs for individuals and families to experience frontier ministry and explore the possibilities of church planting.
Noting the beautiful countryside, mountains and streams in Montana, Howeth said, “We pray for a day when the spiritual landscape in places like Montana and the West would reflect the physical landscape and the beauty of God.” He believes this will be accomplished through the planting of biblically based churches.
Barry Calhoun, Church Planting Team Leader with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), spoke in classes about opportunities for students to be involved with church planting while they are in seminary. He encouraged students interested in international missions to find ethnic church plants to work with in Texas.
John Edwards, a master’s student who will graduate in May, is a Southwesterner who feels called to church planting. For a little more than a year, he and his team have been laying groundwork for a new church plant in Strafford, Mo., a suburb of Springfield. He’s presently taking church planting classes in his final semester at Southwestern in preparations for being deployed as a church planter through the Nehemiah Project, a joint partnership program between seminaries and NAMB.
“We need to be more involved in evangelism and drawing people to church,” Edwards said. “Since the church attendance rates are declining and the populations are growing, I believe that there needs to be more churches to reach those growing populations.”