PERSPECTIVE: Church Plants
I don’t understand why we need more churches! It seems like there are churches on every corner. Shouldn’t we just strengthen the ones we already have?
That is a fair question. I would not argue that churches seem to be everywhere in Oklahoma. The truth is that today we have fewer churches per 1,000 residents than we did in the 1950s and 1960s. With population shifts in regard to race and culture, we must continue to plant new churches to reach people with the Gospel. The old rule of thumb statistically remains intact. New churches grow faster than old ones. Therein lies an additional reason to plant new churches.
Another question often asked: Do these churches survive? The answer is a resounding yes. In fact, we have seen an 85 percent success rate of survival for new churches. Experience reveals that many of them do not just survive, they thrive.
Last Sunday, it was my privilege to return to one such church plant, and what I discovered brought tears of joy. More than 14 years ago, while pastor at Oklahoma City, Northwest, I had the honor of leading our church to plant a Vietnamese congregation. It had an unusual start. A handful of Vietnamese Baptists came to me and asked if we would help them start a church in the northwest part of the city. The request was powerful. They indicated that through fasting and prayer, the Lord had led them to come to our church for help. They told me they would not stop fasting until we agreed. In a few days, our church chose to plant this new work.
And now the rest of the story . . . The congregation I found Sunday was vibrant and alive. They now have their own building and continue to grow and reach Vietnamese in Oklahoma City for Christ. Their worship was outstanding-equal to what I find in much larger churches. The church is healthy, united and growing.
I was there to preach because the pastor and six other members of the church were on a mission trip to Malaysia. Many Vietnamese go to that country to work, and there is a great opportunity to preach the Gospel without fear.
I was astounded as one of the members gave a visual and verbal report to the congregation. The pastor had been privileged to preach to a large crowd of these workers, and 300 of them were saved. He and the other leaders spent time training these new converts to be witnesses for Christ. Many of them will return to Vietnam, and they will become missionaries to their families and villages.
As I experienced worship in this dynamic congregation and listened to the report from their mission trip, I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. My heart was full of thanksgiving that God had allowed me to be a part of their founding. The pastor told the congregation by video that I was the midwife for their birth! Actually, the birth of this church happened because of a missional church-Northwest-and missional Oklahoma Baptists who gave through the Cooperative Program.
In my ministry among Oklahoma Baptists, I have been privileged to preach in many churches that were new church starts. Each time, I walk away proud that Southern Baptists are a missional people. We are willing to plant churches among people groups that need to hear the Gospel and provide a church where they can be discipled and nurtured. Over the last several years, Oklahoma Baptists have been consistent in penetrating pockets of people who are reached by our present churches.
It is in the DNA of Oklahoma Baptists to plant churches. After my experience last Sunday I know why.