In fact it's the area around Lucas Oil Stadium, site of the Feb. 5 Super Bowl, that has some of the most urgent church planting needs in the Indianapolis area. Southern Baptists can see firsthand the potential for new churches in the city during the March 8-9 vision tour.
Currently, Southern Baptists have only two places to worship in the city center, an area of downtown Indianapolis with 19,000 people living in a one-mile radius. One is a new church plant reaching students at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis (IUPUI). The other, Metro Baptist Center, primarily reaches the homeless population.
The vision tour is part of the local efforts to mobilize Southern Baptists to the city through Send North America: Indianapolis, part of the North American Mission Board's national strategy to mobilize Southern Baptists to start churches in 29 major cities and elsewhere throughout North America.
"There's a huge need for new churches , because there's so many different groups downtown," said Monty Mullenix, pastor of Living Faith Church in Indianapolis, which started the campus church. "They have young students and young adults, but they also have a lot of empty nesters. It's a changing and growing area."
The campus church draws around 25 worshippers, with new people visiting every week. Mullenix emphasizes that the work downtown is hard. Though several students are close to accepting Christ as their Savior and Lord, the church plant is still waiting for its first baptism.
While finding churches interested in starting a new work in the city center may be at the top of the agenda for the upcoming vision tour, it's far from the only church planting need among the 2 million people in metro Indianapolis. Southern Baptists currently have only one church for every 18,000 people. Nearly 60 percent of the populace are not affiliated with any religious group -- Christian or otherwise -- according to the Association of Religion Data Archives.
"Indianapolis is a great city that has been neglected spiritually for far too long," said John Newland, pastor of Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis and one of the tour's organizers.
"I hope that people who come will see the realistic potential to plant churches for people who are not that much different than them," Newland noted. "In other words, they aren't going to be crossing a great cultural divide by coming to Indianapolis. There is a huge sea of lostness here, but it isn't so divergent from middle American culture that you'd have to endure a whole lot of culture shock."
During the vision tour, Southern Baptists will be introduced to various church planters currently engaging communities throughout the metro area. Vision tour participants will have the opportunity to hear the planters share their vision and opportunities they see for churches to partner with them.
"The key is that all of these guys have a heartbeat to plant multiplying churches and raise up planters," said Bob Burton, Midwest regional mobilizer for NAMB. "These are kind of like Antioch starts. Getting these churches established is a key to reaching the city."
While starting churches among many of the city's unchurched won't entail large cultural leaps, Newland said there is a growing international population in the city, citing Pike Township. With more than 60 languages spoken in the area and a world market where every aisle is filled with food from a different ethnicity, the area is almost like stepping into an international destination.
"If you have a passion for international missions but, for whatever reason, you can't get out of the U.S., there's a place for you in Indianapolis," Newland said.
For more information or to register for the Indianapolis Catch the Vision Tour, call 317-594-6964 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To join Southern Baptists in reaching North America through church planting visit namb.net and click on the "mobilize me" button.
Tobin Perry is a writer for the North American Mission Board. To watch a video about church planting in Indianapolis visit namb.net/Indianapolis.
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