As the North American Mission Board heads into the fourth year of the Send North America (SNA) Strategy, I have been taking inventory of all that God has done up to this point. We have seen the number of church plants increase from 769 in 2010 to averaging nearly 1,000 per year today. Of those churches planted in 2010, we have seen their worship attendance, missions giving and baptism rates rise and, in some cases, outpace the norm!
One of the early tenants of the SNA strategy was a belief that churches, not mission agencies, plant churches. Mission agencies come alongside the local church to help her fulfill her mission. We have ingrained in our team that our primary “customers” are local churches and the pastors of those churches. After all, without the local church there is no Southern Baptist Convention.
As the SNA strategy has taken off over the last few years the mobilization of local churches for church planting has been one of our primary aims. Initially, our team set out to mobilize 10 percent of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches to be involved. This means that our goal would be to help 4,500 plus churches become intentionally involved in evangelistic church planting in the U.S. and Canada. I am happy to say, that after a few short years, over 3,500 churches are engaged in the process to some degree. Granted not all of these churches have planted another church yet, but they are engaged in a process that is moving them in that direction.
One of the questions I get asked a lot is, what kind of church can plant an SBC church through NAMB. My answer has been, any church that affirms the Baptist Faith and Message (BFM) 2000 can help us plant churches. So we have intentionally developed strategies to mobilize churches of all sizes and cultural streams. We have strategies for mobilizing deaf churches, Hispanic churches, Middle Eastern churches, Chinese churches. We are forming “missional communities” in some cases. We are doing it all to advance the gospel.
We have even seen in some cases where, BFM 2000 affirming, non-SBC churches have been effective in planting SBC churches in some contexts. In Montreal for instance, our Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC) track record has been dismal for decades. In 2013 we partnered with a like-minded church to plant a cooperating church in that city. Today, La Chappelle is by far our largest CNBC church in that city with over 800 worshipping (150 of whom were baptized in 2013). In another situation, we partnered with a church that was nominally committed to the SBC to send out collegiate missionaries. Today that church is giving more to the Cooperative Program and this past summer sent out over 300 short-term missionaries. A part of our strategy includes enlisting churches that are committed to help us plant churches that are unapologetically SBC. I have even tasked one of my senior leaders with the job of re-connecting churches that are disconnected from the SBC for one reason or another.
The bottom line, if we are going to reach North America, we are going to need all hands on deck. We are committed to planting churches that are solidly committed to planting doctrinally conservative (BFM 2000) and missionally aggressive (cooperative missions) churches. We are thankful for the 3,500 plus churches that have partnered so far and are looking forward to engaging many more as we seek to advance the gospel together in North America.
Kevin Ezell is president of the North American Mission Board.