B21 wants to make you aware of the Go Network for church planting in Mississippi, focusing primarily on the central and southern parts of the state.
“Go Network is a group of churches committed to developing church planters that will reach people far from God with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are looking for planters who are in this for the long term and who want to plant externally focused churches in Mississippi. Planters who participate in Go’s development process will be asked to engage in very intense ministry experiences that will cause them to examine their lives and grow through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Led by church planters Eric Smith and Philip Thurman, Go Network is sure to serve Mississippi well with Gospel-centered, disciple-making churches.
For more info, visit http://www.goplantchurches.com/
As a north Mississippi native, I’ve long been burdened about the need for healthy, Christ-centered churches in my home town of Corinth, and the surrounding region. Indeed, there is a “church on every corner,” but though USA Today named MS the most religious state in the Union, it also boasts the highest teen pregnancies, highest illiteracy rate, greatest obesity, and is the poorest state in the US. AND…most Southern Baptists per capita.
Thankfully, however, God is at work in Mississippi as evidenced by the One8 Network.
Based out of Senatobia, MS “ONE8 is a cooperating network of churches in partnership with the MS Baptist Convention, focused on developing pastors and multiplying congregations. It is our firm conviction that we must embrace the call to plant churches in order to fulfill the Great Commission, and no one else is given that stewardship more than the local church. We seek to do this through shared financial resources, intentional relationships, accessible church-planting churches, and an approved system of planter assessment, training, and coaching.”
Learn more about One8 and how to get involved at their website, http://one8.org/. If you are serving in a church or thinking of church planting in MS, we encourage you to connect with One8.
First, my church strives after the glory of God in all things with a strong emphasis on the Scriptures and Gospel-Centrality. This works itself out in a commitment to expository preaching. This method of preaching, above all others, highlights the Word of God, which is sufficient and authoritative for all matters of “life and godliness.” This means allowing the Scriptures to drive our practice and not tradition for tradition sake. That means we evaluate our practices by Scripture and not “how we have done it.” This led us years ago to change the “Sunday School” practice to a “small-group” model. This was not easy, but a church that trusts the sufficiency of Scripture is willing to make changes. This is not to say that small groups are the only biblical model that encourages fulfilling the “one another” passages, but it is a route that takes those commands and the fellowship of the church seriously.
In addition, this has led us to a focus on discipleship. This love for the scriptures and the glory of God in all things drives our church to grow “theologians” who think well about God and life. This can only be done through a focus on discipleship. This has been a major problem with the SBC. There has been such an emphasis on “numbers” especially “Baptism” numbers, but this has caused us to miss the emphasis of Matthew 28. Because we have seen the end goal as merely “dunking” someone in water we have failed to reach the end goal of equipping and maturing believers in Christ to be disciples who are disciple-makers. How does our church focus on discipleship? Our church focuses on several factors that might be helpful to all SBC Churches.
First, there is a membership process; this comes directly out of our belief in the Baptist distinctive of “Regenerate Church Membership.” This starts, as our Lord commanded us, with Baptism and initiation into the community of God. In order to be baptized at our church, you have to meet with the Elders and share your testimony with the congregation. Second, there is a membership class that lays out the values and visions of our church that all “members” have to go through to become part of this gospel community. During this process, each new member must have an interview with one of our elders. The importance of our small group ministry and our focus on a Regenerate body (also we explain that we employ redemptive church discipline as a means of discipleship and love for erring members and for our witness to the outside world) are detailed during this process.
Next, members are integrated into a small group, which is the primary means of discipleship and community in our church. This is the place that we carry out the “one another” commands in scripture given to the gospel community. This is where we challenge and encourage one another in discipleship and love. A practical example, when someone in the small group or care group has a child, the care group provides meals for a month for them. In these groups, we also confront one another over sin and we challenge each other to grow in our love for the word and our maturing in Christ. This is where we seek to live “life together” outside of just a Sunday gathering, as they did in the New Testament (C.f. Acts 2). In addition, and in context with our focus on regenerate church membership, the care group leaders are trained in biblical peacemaking and helping through conflicts in a redeeming, gospel-centered way. Through these groups our church begins to recognize the men that are potential future leaders, either as elders at our church or in church planting elsewhere. These men are then moved into a “shepherd’s training” program (more about that later).
Finally, in the context of Gospel-Centrality, there is a focus on being as diverse as the community around us. The gospel has broken down the dividing walls of race, socio-economic status, and cultural differences, and our church strives to be a gospel witness through a unity in the gospel.
Second, our church is adamant about the primacy of the local church. This plays itself out in the training up of leaders (2 Timothy 2:1-2). This is done in house. The elders and leaders in the church begin to identify men that they see as potential leaders and church planters and they invite them into our “shepherd’s training.”
The elders invite these men that they have identified into the 2-year program; it is not open to everyone. He is then paired with an Elder or leader in the church, along with one other trainee. This leader focuses on personal development and maturity with him. In addition, there is a focus on accountability and the character necessary for an elder. He meets with this Elder/leader every other week to go through these things and to work through memorizing the Pastoral Epistles. In addition, he also meets every other week with all those in the program and all the trainers. Each “semester” during the 2-year cycle focuses on a different aspect of pastoral ministry and leadership. The every other week meeting focuses on the portion of the Pastoral Epistles that was to be memorized that week. One of the Elders then leads through an exposition of that passage and the other elders add thoughts on the passage as well. Next, all the trainees are required to read a book for the week, examples of books read are Baxter’s “The Reformed Pastor,” Dever’s “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church,” Spurgeon’s “Lectures to My Students,” and Bonheoffer’s “Life Together.” Each week, two of the trainees deliver an oral book review of the book for that week and then ask questions of the book that the elders answer and discuss. Finally, the night ends with one of the elders lecturing on an area of pastoral ministry and then discussion of that topic among the elders and trainees. The topics range from “why we employ small groups” to “regenerate church membership.” In addition, during the semester the trainees write two position papers on topics of interest in pastoral ministries. The topics of these papers are things like, view of spiritual gifts in ministry, use of alcohol in ministry, view of divorce and remarriage, and view of church government. Finally, each trainee is to work on a ministry project in some area of church life. The goal is to lead to the training of future elders and church planters through life on life training. This is the best way to evaluate whether a man possess the qualifications of an Elder and if they are ready to take on a role such as that.
Finally, in the focus of church primacy, my home church does church planting and missions “in house.” They have already raised up in house the leadership for five church plants. Four have launched in the last Five Years and one more will launch this summer. These church plants are located in Downtown Raleigh (NC), Wilson (NC), Del Rio (TX), Myrtle Beach (SC), and Boston (MA). It seems that a major focus for the GCR is church planting. My church is a model for how to do this and how to do it well. They have assessed and raised up leadership in house, which is the best evaluation process there is because the life of a planter is viewed over a long period of time. Through this process, Elders can determine if these church planters fit the qualifications of an Elder laid out in the Scriptures. This process has been effective, as these plants are viable and themselves moving toward future planting. If the focus of the GCR simply is discipleship and multiplication, seen in healthy churches discipling their people and then planting churches with these people, here is a model.
This focus on the primacy of the local church does not mean that my church does not seek to be aided by the convention structures, but it means that they do not farm out missions’ work or church planting to an outside organization. Unfortunately at times, they have had to go around convention structures to do the work of missions and church planting. It is my hope and our church’s hope that a GCR will focus on how convention structures can best serve local churches so that SBC churches do not have to go around convention structures to cooperate in mission work that the Bible has assigned to the local church.
Finally, how does my church focus on missional living? First, there is a focus on the small groups being missional. They are all to carry out community projects in our “We Love North Raleigh” campaign. There is the hope that small group leaders will instill in our people the importance of being missionaries in our community, sometimes through tangible projects, but also through just daily life.
Second, as has been mentioned, we focus on missional living through church planting. Recently, our elders have moved us from being “just” a church planting church, to a church that has created a network that encourages further church planting through cooperation. The model still holds though that the church is primary, and the teams will be launched out of local churches being served by this Pillar Network. And the idea is to perpetuate the model of my home church through focusing the churches planted out of this network on three values: Gospel, Community, Mission.
In addition, the church has worked hard at overseas and cross-cultural missions. One of the ways our church is involved in cross-cultural missions is very exciting. Through our church plant in Del Rio, Texas, which is a border town with Mexico, we have set up a Bible institute in Acuna, Mexico that trains Mexican pastors. This is for the purpose of strengthening the local churches in that area and having those churches multiply this effort in their own country.
My church is certainly not the only model, but it is a model that I wish more Southern Baptists would take a look at. Some reading this blog are probably incorrectly assuming that we are a mega-church and that only Mega-churches can do what is being laid out here. This is not the case. In fact, SBC.net shows the average attendance at around 700. Instead, this is simply a church concerned with discipling and multiplying. It is not concerned with mere numbers or high attendance, but with multiplying. And the way they have gone about it should be examined and emulated by churches of all sizes. If this were so, and as the convention structures begin to aid and assist churches like this in planting and missions, we may see a genuine movement in our midst, and maybe just call it a resurgence.
Before I begin this post I’d like to continue the habit of recommending a few resources that are related to church planting:
Mark Driscoll, Seven Views of Culture
After working through the call to church plant, the question naturally arises: where am I supposed to go?
The question I get most often is “Why plant in Denver?” As we worked through the call to a location, we didn’t know where to start. Anywhere on the map was fair game. In the end, we decided on Denver for three major reasons: Need, Influence, and Community. The first two are self-explanatory, but the third is a less-discussed component of calling.
My wife and I wanted to think long term about where we would plant, taking the advice of Tim Keller that the best way to reach the cities is to have Christians plant their lives there for multiple generations. Therefore, we were asking practical questions such as: “what does it look to do life here?,” “what does it look like to raise children here?,” and “how well do I naturally fit into the already-established culture?” I don’t mean to overemphasize this to the point that if you don’t immediately gush at the thought of your grandkids playing in the city’s parks then you need to look elsewhere, but I do think it’s important to actually like where you live. My guess is your effectiveness is limited when you view the city as some dark, horrible, crowded place that you would avoid unless God had “called” you to it.
Below is an elaboration of our own calling to the city of Denver. This was written and reserached by another member of our team, Andy Metzger.
When answering the question, “Why Denver?” we like to focus on three categories: need, influence, and community.
Over the past 10 years, cities across our country have continued to experience a significant return—a return of people. Urban environments are being revitalized, residential life is booming, and all generations have shown interest in being a part of this movement. Young professionals, empty nesters, and retirees alike are migrating toward urban centers, and we can’t afford to ignore this.
Denver is no different:
After decades of decline (~1970–1990), the population of the Denver Metro Area has steadily grown to reach a record high of 2.8 million residents.
Studies show that anywhere from 90-97% of these Denver residents are unchurched
Denver is quickly emerging as a distinguished and prominent city within the western United States
So as Denver continues to grow—as people continue to come—we believe the need for gospel-centered churches rises tremendously. Because the number of churches being planted has not paralleled the growing population, there are millions of Denver residents that have not heard and been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Fundamentally, we see a tremendous need for more gospel-centered churches in Denver because there are so many people who do not know Jesus as Savior.
Cities like Denver, however, are not merely homes to millions—they are centers of influence for the world. These urban centers continue to be the primary location where culture develops. Economics, commerce, arts, politics, philosophy, and technology are fundamentally shaped in the city and then flow into all other sectors of the world.
Where the cities lead, the world follows. What the cities love, the world loves. What the cities value, the world values. To evangelize the entire world, then, we see the cities as the strategic starting point and launching pad of our mission.
We look at Denver as a strategic city—one that influences culture and shapes the lives of millions of people. It is an energetic and welcoming metropolitan area—one of the most important cities of the Mountain West region—and serves as a gateway to West Coast life. Denver also boasts these amazing qualities:
12 four-year public and private colleges and universities with enrollments totaling more than 140,700
The latest U.S. census shows that over 70 nationalities and languages are represented in Denver
Denver is one of only two cities in America with ten professional sports teams
Denver is emerging as the leader in renewable energy research and “green-friendly” practices
Denver held the Democratic National Convention in August 2008 demonstrating the nation’s recognition of Denver as a leading city
The third primary reason we look to Denver as a strategic city is because of its amazing culture that we know we could quickly grow to love. Recognized by the Pew Research Center in 2008 as the “Best City to Call Home,” Denver has long been revered as the perfect place to live, learn, work and play. Mixing an urban sophistication, educated population, and dynamic culture with an adventurous outdoors, sunny climate, and affordable living provides just a glimpse of why Denver attracts individuals and families from all over the globe.
Ultimately, we desire to love the place where we live and its people. Denver has the progressive culture of a west coast town, tremendous diversity, natural beauty, and a hint of Midwestern hospitality that we can thrive in. We are excited about calling Denver home, raising families in Denver, building community in Denver, and restoring true joy and hope to Denver through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Make sure to check out the other posts in this series on Preparing2Plant Churches
Church planters, especially those who “parachute” from the outside, have a reputation for disrespecting the already-established churches in the area. We can easily view ourselves as the enlightened saviors of the city who finally “get” how to do church, and if people would just do ministry like us (never mind that we’re not actually practicing, and this is all theory) then this city would be 95% evangelical, not 95% lost…
Such thinking reflects a myopic kingdom mindset, but this has sadly been the legacy of many planters who have gone before us. Such thinking typically leads to these churches shutting their doors before really having a chance to open them.
Our team didn’t want to be oblivious to the work that has gone before us in the city. It’s not like we’ll be the first good church in Denver, and it is exciting rather than discouraging to know that there are good, gospel-centered churches in the city already. I guess there’s something seemingly-courageous about going to a city and saying you’re the only evangelical church. But for me, when we’re trying to reach millions of people, I’d sure like to have some brothers in the trenches with me. I think there will be plenty of lost people to go around.
These other churches are not our competition, but rather our partners in fulfilling the Great Commission in a city that desperately needs Jesus. I love cooperating for the cause of the gospel since it is “the great unifier.” Territorialism in light of this is utterly ridiculous.
We have experienced a wonderful spirit of cooperation in Denver, as pastors recognize both the need in the city and that no one church is going to reach a city on its own. We’ve seen partnerships develop with churches like High View Church, which is only a year old, running around eighty people, yet planting a church in Colorado Springs as well as helping with our planting process in the next year.
If you don’t love the other gospel-centered local churches in the city in which you’re planting, I’d strongly encourage you to evaluate your own calling. More than anything, I’d ask you whether you’re planting a church for God’s glory, or your own.
3. A Team
The thought of my wife and I being a couple of lone rangers and moving to a city to start a church was less than appealing to me. I know there are plenty of guys who have been successful using this model, but when I examined the multitude of responsibilities involved in church planting, I recognized that I didn’t want to do this alone.
Planting as a team presents unique challenges and potential dangers, but the advantages are tremendous: you are engaging the city with an already-established support system in place. You have a community of missionaries ready to reach the city and capable of entering spheres of influence that a lone planter could never reach on his own. You are able to immediately invite non-believers into a gospel community where they can witness what a counter-cultural, gospel-centered life looks like. And when this team comes out of the same church, you already have a clearly defined DNA in place that makes vision casting for the lead planter much easier. I don’t have to introduce my team to concepts such as missional living, gospel-centeredness, expository preaching, and community engagement because my church already has.
In conclusion to this section on calling and the local church, my plea is that you would love the church and see the call to church planting in a less-individualistic light. Strive to see the call in the context of community, namely that local body in which God has placed you to love and serve before you plant.
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