In his book Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby has taught us to find where God is working around us and join Him in that work. God is always on mission in the world. He invites us to join Him in writing redemptive history over the 21st century.
Whenever God is ready to do something in His kingdom, He always shares it with His followers. This was true of Abraham, Noah, Moses, the Apostles and it is also true today. It is true of Alabama Baptist church planting. God speaks through His people.
God spoke through the adoption of the Future Focus initiative for Alabama Baptists as we met in November 2012. Included in this proposal was the goal to start 220 new intentional, healthy churches by 2020.
Then, about a month later, Executive Director Rick Lance traveled to Manhattan to meet with me about the possibility of my coming to become the Lead Church Planting Strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
During the course of our conversation, Dr. Lance stated that he wanted us to become the “gold standard” for church planting in the Deep South. I know that Dr. Lance is a godly man, but never more clearly has the Lord ever spoken to me than on that day.
It was as if the Lord Himself spoke through Dr. Lance to say to me that He was about to do something amazing in the area of church planting in Alabama and beyond.
When God speaks, it means that He is up to something. He clearly invited me to come back to my home state to be here while He does this work. The work is not up to me. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says that “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
Jesus builds His churches, but He calls men and women to join Him in this great work. I am just honored to be on His team.
Perhaps the Lord would have you to join in this exciting enterprise of starting new churches as well. You can start by looking around your greater community to see where there are pockets of people who are not currently being reached for Christ.
It could be that you need to start a ministry to reach them to come to the church you are now attending. You might find, however, that if someone presses their face up against the glass in the door of your church and they don’t see anyone inside who looks like them, they don’t feel welcome.
Jim Slack, a researcher for the International Mission Board, has done a study of North America and has found that we have really been lied to. We are not the melting pot we have been told that we were. We are not like a pancake where we can pour syrup of the Gospel over the top and know it went all over the surface.
We are more of a waffle, and we must get the syrup of the Gospel into every divot. People without Jesus are really good at building barriers. We must tear those barriers down in love with the Gospel. Sometimes that is best done through starting a new church.
Further evidence of the fact that our Father is at work in church planting in Alabama is that, at this writing, we have funded 48 planters through our office since 2013. We have also trained hundreds in Basic Training, scores in how to sponsor a church plant, and 38 men have been coached to date. I pray daily Luke 10:2 that the Lord of the harvest would send laborers and I have received, at least, one call per day this week.
If you are currently involved in church planting — as a planter, on a planting team or in a partnering church — or if you’re considering getting involved in church planting visit plantalabama.org for more information and resources.
For more information about church planting among Alabama Baptists, please contact State Missionary Lamar Duke at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 332, or (334) 613-2332, [email protected].