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Church helps youth minister venture into church planting

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
EDITOR'S NOTE: Southern Baptist churches are engaged in the annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 4-11, in conjunction with the 2012 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. With a goal of $70 million, AAEO gifts help pay the salaries and ministry support for missionaries serving in North America with the SBC's North American Mission Board. For more information, visit

CLOVIS, N.M. (BP) -- Derek Osburn never set out to be a poster child for missional church staff members but, as a youth minister in New Mexico, God broadened his horizons.

The pivotal decision point for Osburn came at a state evangelism conference where Ed Stetzer challenged the audience. Stetzer, a longtime church planter and church planting advocate, is vice president of research and ministry development for LifeWay Christian Resources.

"He said you will not change your circumstances until the discomfort of staying outweighs the discomfort of leaving," Osburn recounted. "That was the turning point for me. I knew it was time to go."

And by go Osburn thought he and his family would have to leave their home in Clovis, N.M., and start a church elsewhere. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt his church, Central Baptist. Turns out, however, that Central Baptist had another idea.

Osburn and his wife Sharla are among five North American Mission Board missionary couples featured as part of the annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 4-11, and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. The offering helps support the Osburns and other missionaries who serve on behalf of Southern Baptists throughout North America. With a goal of $70 million, this year's offering theme is "Whatever It Takes."

Osburn began wrestling with the idea of planting a church that would reach the unchurched in 2005. But his concern from the beginning was for the health and welfare of Central Baptist. He went so far as to resign from Central to explore the possibility of planting a church in Oklahoma. Osburn visited and weighed the options, but a call from Central Baptist senior pastor Alan McAlister changed his plans.


McAlister suggested Osburn try exactly what he was planning, but do it at Central as associate pastor. That opened the door for a new Sunday night service and new small groups to build community. In three years, a core group was ready to plant The Vine Community Church.

"Why would we want to start another church?" McAlister mused. "Well, over 80 percent of the population of this county is lost. If you sense that God is leading you to start a new work, the best thing you can do is do that, in spite of what logic might tell you. We're a testimony that He truly blesses."

The Vine now averages 210 in worship in a leased building that seats 300, pulling about 65 percent of its members from Cannon Air Force Base.

"Because of Central doing this, they've gained 100 new members in a year and the Vine has gained 200," Osburn said. "It proved to be the most biblical, godly thing they could do for the Kingdom. And so it was good in God's eyes. It was good spiritually. It was good for our community."

That multiplication, coming from a position of health and maturity, makes Osburn and Central Baptist a model for how churches and their staffs can approach church planting.

"Church planting is done best when healthy churches do what healthy living things do -- reproduce," Stetzer said. "When the process includes healthy reproducing churches and prepared and healthy planters, it is a powerful and effective combination."

The North American Mission Board is committed to helping churches prepare for partnership in church planting wherever those churches find themselves through its Send North America efforts to connect church planters with sponsoring churches.


"I was working at Central Baptist Church and spiritually searching for the next step that God wanted me to take," Osburn said. "I had this sense that we're not going to reach everybody in our world at our church. Of course that's the whole point of our Christian life -- to be fruitful. That's what we're trying to do.

"The journey was cohesive and friendly working with Central. They were a great mother church. We worked well with the Baptist Convention of New Mexico and the North American Mission Board. It was a great experience," Osburn said.

"God has blessed us enormously," Osburn's wife Sharla said. "I was skeptical in the beginning, but this has been better than I ever imagined. When we stepped out, it was a whole different experience from anything I had encountered in church before. It is a blessing to see so many people from different groups come together. We have people who have never been churched, we have military, we have people who have not been in a community of people who follow Christ."

Having the flexibility to attend her daughters' events, Bible studies with new members and different small groups allow Sharla to be involved at a depth that supports the vision of Vine Community.

"It has been neat to see our girls be a part of this," Sharla said of the couple's three daughters, Aspyn, 11, Makaidyn, 8, and Pacyn, 4. "They have a heart for missions and missions is fun. When their birthdays were coming up they told us that they did not want presents. Instead they wanted to use the money to purchase items for orphans.


"We had a combined birthday party for them where the gifts were things the orphans could use, like clothing and backpacks. Then we took our girls with another family and their daughter to deliver the presents to an orphanage in Belize. Missions is important to our church and it is important to our girls."

The Vine Community Church launched in September 2009 and constituted in September 2011.

"Until recently we did not even have a sign," Osburn said. "We do not advertise. We don't print bulletins, do mailings or use any paper. We do all our outreach by personal invitation. People bring people they know to church. People are much more likely to trust someone they know. Anyone will visit your church, but will they come back? When people bring their friends to church, those friends are much more likely to return."

Osburn tells of one member who was unchurched and a step away from ending his marriage. Osburn became involved when the family sought help.

"At first we just talked, or I just listened," Osburn said. "He was not ready to hear what he needed to do. Over time, he came to understand what God expected of him and how He wanted a relationship with him. Now he is involved in weekly Bible study and is exactly where God wants him to be, in life, in his marriage."

As week of prayer missionaries, the Osburns are excited about having so many people praying for them.

"I want to take an opportunity to thank people for their involvement in the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and the North American Mission Board," Osburn said. "As people give of their time through prayer and resources, they help churches like ours succeed in Kingdom work."


Joe Conway is a writer for the North American Mission Board. To view a video about Derek Osburn and the other Week of Prayer missionaries, visit Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( and in your email (

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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