Yet it has been nearly 15 years since our last missionary family was on the field, and we felt disconnected from the missionaries we support as Southern Baptists.
The need to reconnect with missions was on my mind when I called a North American Mission Board mobilizer in 2012 to talk about Send North America (NAMB's national church planting strategy). I had heard about the transition at NAMB, and I wanted to see for myself what the changes meant for my church and our Cooperative Program giving.
During the conversation, Send North America just clicked with me. I gained a vision to reach the urban centers of North America. I knew that other areas in North America had more lostness and fewer churches than we had in Alabama, yet I was amazed to see how people from all over the world were immigrating to the 32 cities in the Send North America initiative. As Southern Baptists who are passionate about the Great Commission, we must plant churches in these cities.
I've always had an interest in church planting myself, but God brought another potential planter to my mind -- our youth minister. Steve Renner had been serving at our church for two years and doing a great job. He was clearly lead-pastor material and passionate about sharing Christ with the lost. Knowing that Steve would one day pastor his own church, I've tried to help him prepare for his next steps in ministry by giving him opportunities to preach, make hospital visits, lead the Lord's Supper and baptize new believers.
Since Steve was serving our church so well, I spent a minute or two arguing with God about what He was telling me. I had hoped Steve would be with us a few more years, but it was no use. God was in this. After praying about it with his family, Steve quickly began to sense the call as well.
When Steve announced the decision, the church decided we wouldn't let his family go alone. We would be sending him to St. Louis. We made a commitment to include him in our church budget for the new church plant. We will send teams to St. Louis to help him on a regular basis. It is possible that some of our college students may move to the city to be a part of his team. And of course, we're committed to being prayer warriors for Steve and his family as they take on this challenging task.
Now we won't just be taking mission trips and giving to missions, as important as those are. We will be intimately involved with what God is doing in St. Louis through our connection with Steve.
We cannot do this alone. We are a relatively small church with less than 200 in Sunday School attendance. We are taking a lead role in helping the new church plant find the additional partners it will need to launch in a healthy way.
Not every church can be a sending church. But every church can help a church planter.
As Southern Baptists we stand on the cusp of penetrating lostness in North America like never before. I can't wait to see what God will do through our church in St. Louis. And I can't wait to see what He'll do through your church, too.
Eric House is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Hokes Bluff, Ala. To learn how your church can be involved in church planting through Send North America, visit namb.net/mobilize-me. This article originally appeared in On Mission magazine published by the North American Mission Board.
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