SEND Oklahoma Network, the church planting network formed in partnership with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Oklahoma Baptists, recently assessed the first two church planting couples since the network was launched in August. Rickey and Brittany Thomas and Cayo and Larissa Cavalcante received approval from the network’s church planting assessors to launch new works in the Oklahoma City metro area.

SEND Oklahoma Network assesses, approves new church planters - Baptist Messenger of Oklahoma

Brittany and Rickey Thomas are planting Freedom Worship in northeast Oklahoma City

The Thomases will plant a new church in northeast Oklahoma City called Freedom Worship, while the Cavalcantes will launch a Portuguese-speaking church in the Edmond area called Deepen Movement Church.

SEND Oklahoma Network leaders say the need for church planting in the state is great, and they expect more planters to be assessed before the end of the year.

“Our state, cities, towns and neighborhoods are in a continual season of change,” said Doug Melton, SEND Oklahoma Network director and pastor of Oklahoma City, Southern Hills.  “It is not unusual these days for us to talk about what was an empty field just a few years ago is now a neighborhood or how the demographics of a long-established neighborhood have changed.

“What a wonderful opportunity that affords us to tell people about our God who never changes and, yet, can bring about life change in us! Church plants and replants have proven to be highly effective in reaching the lost.”

SEND Oklahoma Network assesses, approves new church planters - Baptist Messenger of Oklahoma 1

Cayo and Larissa Cavalcante are planting Deepen Movement Church in Edmond.

Rusty Gunn, pastor of Sand Springs, Church that Matters, is the church planting catalysts for the Tulsa or northern Oklahoma region of the SEND Oklahoma Network. Gunn said Oklahoma Baptists can expect more planters from the upcoming assessment in December.

“We have hit the ground running with SEND Oklahoma,” Gunn said. “In the Tulsa area alone we will have three church planting candidates participating in a December assessment. We have three others currently in the pipeline for spring with others beginning to express interest. Church That Matters is already prepared to send an endorsed planter out to plant a church in West Tulsa in 2021. Things are moving quickly as we become acclimated to NAMB and the SEND Network’s systems.”

Ray Strauss is SEND Oklahoma church planting catalyst for Oklahoma City and southern Oklahoma areas and recruited the two church planter couples who were approved in the October assessment. He explained there are more planters to come from his networking as well.

“Currently, we have several couples in our pipeline with more coming regularly,” Strauss said. “As Oklahoma pastors become more familiar with our new SEND Oklahoma strategy and team, both sending churches and potential planters are reaching out and asking how they can get involved.”

After the pandemic limited travel and in-person gatherings, NAMB developed a virtual church planting assessment and assessed the Oklahoma planters using online video conferencing in late October. Strauss said the assessment went well for the two couples.

“Both Rickey and Brittany came to SEND Oklahoma with rich ministry and real world experience,” Strauss said. “Brittany is an attorney who spends much of her time working for non-profits that often feed into the church planting ministry Rickey leads.

“Rickey’s extensive ministry experience has provided a foundation of understanding that helped him come to assessment with a practical context for starting and developing a new church, Freedom Worship, in Oklahoma City.”

Strauss reported the Thomases were given the strongest designation possible, which he said is “ready to plant now.” He also gave a confirming report on the Cavalcantes who are native Brazilians and can easily minister to those who speak Portuguese.

“Anyone who has a chance to get to know Cayo will immediately notice a deep love and commitment to Jesus Christ,” Strauss said. “He and Larissa live and model a life of total surrender to the Lord. It’s no wonder why God uses them in so many remarkable ways. It is easy to see that when you are part of what Cayo is doing, you know you are part of something God is accomplishing.”

The church planting network plans to continually assess, train, coach and support new church planters with multiple assessments throughout the year. A recent virtual assessment happened Dec. 3-4.

For more information about the SEND Oklahoma Network, visit

For those interested in church planting in Oklahoma City or southern Oklahoma areas, contact Ray Strauss at; for the Tulsa or northern Oklahoma region, contact Rusty Gunn at; and for exploring Hispanic church planting, contact Julio Crespo at

For pastors looking at ways to involve their church in church planting, contact Doug Melton at