It is easy to look at our country and declare that we are abandoning our Christian roots, we are headed downhill, our best days are past. But there are a few men and women who, instead of condemning America, are asking God to change pockets of America through their lives. They are not politicians looking for a national audience. They are church planters being used of God to change a town or city one life at a time.
We contacted over a dozen independent Baptist church planters who have started a church in the last eighteen months. We asked them about their calling, the challenges of planting a church, what they might have done differently, and how we can pray for them. The responses were more than we could fit in a single issue, but we pray that what is published is a window into the hearts and lives of church planters in America.
Junction City Baptist Church
Junction City, Kansas
I had been serving in ministry for five years when God brought me through Kansas. God had burdened my heart for church planting as a freshman at West Coast Baptist College. When I passed through Junction City, God gave me a burden for the area that I could not get out of my mind.
I expected some challenges as a new pastor and church planter, but I never imagined how God would provide. He allowed us to have a building from the beginning, and we were in a major remodel just three months before our grand opening. Finding the right balance between family, ministry, and a building project has been a new challenge.
Looking back, it would have been helpful to have been involved in a building program prior to planting a church, but I am thankful to the Lord for the wisdom and experience He has given to me through this time. I have been able to see God grow our faith and supply our needs in ways that I never imagined. For that we are extremely grateful and give Him all the glory.
North Valley Baptist Church
Oro Valley, Arizona
I was fifteen years old when God brought our family to New Testament Baptist Church in Tucson, Arizona. It was the first church where I had ever heard the Gospel preached, and a few weeks later I accepted Christ as my Saviour. God gave me the desire to be in church whenever the doors were open, but it was almost an hour’s drive to our church. Every time we drove to church we passed through Oro Valley, and I remember thinking, “Why isn’t there a church here?” At the time I had never heard of church planting, but that was the seed of what God would confirm as a calling in Bible college.
After Bible college, my wife and I served in a local church under a pastor who had a burden for church planting. Three years later, we began our deputation. God supplied our needs after eight months of meetings, and we were able to make the move to Oro Valley.
God has supplied our needs in so many ways. We had trouble finding a meeting place to rent within our budget, but God allowed us to rent a multi-purpose room of a new elementary school. He has provided for every month’s rent and beyond!
Several months later, we were given the opportunity to purchase property with a vacant fire station. As a new church, however, we were unable to secure a loan, and we needed a considerable down payment. It seemed impossible, but in God’s amazing way He provided for both the $30,000 down payment and the loan. On November 22, 2010, North Valley Baptist Church closed on this property. The obstacles a church planter faces are not enjoyable in the moment, but God certainly can use those obstacles to do something great.
Blue Oaks Baptist Church
During a vacation to Boise, Idaho, my wife and I saw all the new developments and realized the only church around was the Mormon church. After returning home, I spoke with my dad, who was also my pastor at the time, that I thought God was leading us start a church in Boise. We prayed for several months, and while we didn’t feel God was leading us to Boise, the desire to plant churches was still there. Just a few years later during a Spiritual Leadership Conference, we felt the Holy Spirit tugging at our hearts to revisit church planting. Two years later, God led us to the greater Sacramento area.
Even with help from other godly men, I did not fully understand the transition from assistant pastor to senior pastor. I went from being a part of the decision making process to being the decision maker for all things church related. The burden of responsibility is great, even for a small church. I had to come to grips with the reality that God had selected me (with the Holy Spirit) to feed, lead, guide, and guard His children. Keeping the mission of the church in front of the people is harder than I expected. It is easy just to “do church” week in and out without intentionally discipling people.
Our greatest request is that souls would continue to be saved and discipled. We also pray that God would continue to provide financially.
New Hope Baptist Church
God lead us to Richfield, Utah through a specific answer to prayer. I had recently decided to stop traveling in evangelism to help our five-year-old daughter who was just diagnosed with learning disabilities. Pastor Warneke of Bible Baptist Church in Salt Lake City was helping find a church planter to take over a new church when he heard of our situation. He asked us to come to Richfield, but I immediately declined. He asked again, and my wife and I agreed to pray about it. The following night, he asked once more, and we knew God was leading us to Richfield.
The Sevier Valley where Richfield is located has a population of about 11,000, 96% of which are Mormon. Resistance to the Gospel has not been as great as we expected, but the Mormon mindset is a challenge to overcome. Mormonism in Southern Utah is more than just a religion, it is a culture which is a part of every aspect of life. Leading a Mormon to Christ can be a process—they come to Christ in much the same way Nicodemus did.
My first prayer request is that I would grow spiritually as a Christian, father, husband, and pastor. I pray for spiritual protection for my wife and children. We are asking God to do a great work through New Hope Baptist Church in an area that has never had a Gospel preaching church.
Golden Valley Baptist Church
During Bible college, God impressed on my heart that He would have me plant a church in California some day. I have had the privilege to serve as an assistant pastor in four churches, but it was in 2010 when God began to stir my heart again for church planting. I began compiling a list of cities that were strong prospects for a church plant. Our attention was drawn to Patterson, and God immediately seemed to tie our hearts to the city. The city had doubled in population in eight years, and we have heard that there are plans to build a freeway from that area into San Jose. After several weeks of praying and seeking counsel, we decided to plant a church in Patterson, California.
If there was anything I wished I had known beforehand, it would be the value of bringing another family with us to plant Golden Valley Baptist Church. I was asked many times on deputation if we were bringing anyone with us, and many church planters and pastors have convinced me of the importance of having others involved in planting a church. When God allows our church to plant another church, we definitely plan to have more than one family involved. I continue to pray for God’s wisdom in leading new converts and families coming from a neo-evangelical background to a biblical, independent Baptist foundation. We pray for many people to be saved in the upcoming months.
Open Door Baptist Church
It was through our eleven years in youth ministry that God burdened us to impact whole families with the Gospel. During three different youth mission trips to help church planters, God began to give us a desire to plant a church. As we prayed, God led us to Sun and Shield Baptist Church in Marana, Arizona, where their pastor had a burden to start a church in Catalina, just twenty miles away.
Securing a meeting location and raising support was the first challenge. God provided a meeting location in a fire station training facility for an amazingly low $100 a month rent. And in just three months of deputation, God provided the support needed to birth Open Door Baptist Church.
It has been challenging to balance the responsibilities of a pastor—preaching, shepherding, and administrating—along with being a husband and father. But one of the greatest challenges has been seeing people reject the truth of God’s Word which could change their eternity.
Before we began, I never knew the many blessings and answers to prayer God would provide on a daily basis. We also learned later the value of equipping other people for the work of the ministry. We continue to ask God to fill our services with the power of the Gospel, and for wisdom in reaching the Catalina community. About one in five people are Hispanic, and we would like to begin a Spanish service as soon as possible.
Berean Baptist Church
I have always felt that God wanted me to start a church ever since I surrendered to ministry as a teenager. While I thought about which area, it was God who orchestrated my coming to Burleson, Texas. I travelled as an evangelist for a while after Bible college, but God seemed to be redirecting me. As I was thinking about what God was doing, I received a call from one of my Bible college teachers who was a pastor. His church desired to plant a new church every three years, and he asked me to be the pastor of their first church plant. After seeking the Lord’s face on this matter, we planted a church in Burleson.
I expected finances to be a challenge, but the Lord has always seen us through. It has been amazing to see how God provides.
Coming into the church plant, I was sure we would be running one hundred in the first year. I had to learn not to let myself get discouraged when that did not happen. We are still working and praying God would allow us to see many people saved, baptized, and discipled. By the end of the year, we are praying we would be self-supporting, and we are asking God to provide a piano player and song leader.
Inland Hills Baptist Church
God began to burden my heart for church planting through Pastor Steve Chappell’s preaching at Coastline Baptist Church. After attending West Coast Baptist College, God placed Orange County on my heart, and godly counsel led me to choose the city of Orange.
The Lord has already blessed us, with growth during the Wednesday evening service making our current meeting place crowded. With this growth has come some unexpected difficulties. Some people bring in their way of doing things in their past churches, and others try to subvert our members with other Bible studies.
While witnessing in Orange County, God has been teaching me about developing friendships with new people. People often feel that because I am a pastor, I am trying to get something from then. Through experience, God has taught me about building relationships, and I have been able to teach our church about this.