Recently, I read a social media conversation where my name was used. It’s always a little scary to read what someone else is saying about you when you were not in the original conversation.
When I saw the conversation was about church planting, I really got interested. The main question was; are new churches really needed in Oklahoma? The answer was yes! At this point, others began to ask; what kind of churches are needed in Oklahoma, where in Oklahoma are churches needed, and why are new churches needed in Oklahoma? I never felt compelled to join that discussion, but I have had these questions on my mind ever since.
Before we go too far into this subject, we should know a few things about the new Church Planting paradigm at the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO). First, it is important to know that the BGCO hasn’t planted a single church in Oklahoma under the new paradigm, and it never will, because as a convention we believe churches plant churches.
Therefore, a new church must have a sponsoring church, association, or cluster of churches to be funded through our Cooperative Program dollars. This is consistent with our mission statement: “The BGCO is a partnership of churches serving together under the Lordship of Jesus Christ to impact lostness with the Gospel by making disciples of all peoples.” Also, there are no limits on how much the BGCO can contribute to a church planting partnership. Each planting partnership goes through an assessment process in which the strategy of the plant is developed. The funding then follows the strategy. No set amount limits that strategy; rather the Church Planting Group works to find the resources necessary to see each planting strategy successfully launch.
So, now back to the three questions often asked about Church Planting in Oklahoma.
First, let’s answer the question of what kind of church is needed in Oklahoma. I know that question is legitimate, but it always bothers me, because there is really only one kind of church that can be planted, a fellowship of Christ-following believers. Now I know the question really deals with, do we need ethnic churches, biker churches, cowboy churches, and so forth. The simple answer is, we need all kinds of churches in our state. There is not one ethnic group or cultural grouping that is saturated with the Gospel, so we need to be planting churches where they all might be reached.
Second, the question of where are churches in our state needed, and to this there is a very simple answer, everywhere. The truth is, there isn’t a single area of our state where the church has saturated any area with the Gospel. There is clearly an area more heavily populated along I-44 from Miami to Lawton and I-35 from Norman to Guthrie where there are more people. And where there are more people, there is a greater need to plant churches.
Also, there are some specific areas of population growth, such as our urban (inner city) neighborhoods that are growing in downtown Tulsa and Oklahoma City, where there is a need of additional churches.
The third question of why churches are needed in Oklahoma is clearly found in the Research Survey Data from the North American Mission Board. In 2010 55 percent of Oklahoma was lost, and of that 55 percent, 35 percent didn’t claim any religious affiliation. In 2013 (the last report available) Oklahoma had 2,148,010 lost people, which represents 57 percent of our population, and 1,424,186, or 38 percent, who didn’t claim any religious affiliation. Clearly, the churches we have need help to address the growing number of lost people in our state.
May I be so bold as to say, the BGCO stands ready to assist churches in planting new works and strengthening existing churches. It will take both to really see a significant impact on lostness in our state. If you would like more information about how you or your church can be involved in Church Planting, please contact me at [email protected] and I’ll be glad to put you in touch with our Church Planting Group.