Eric House, Senior pastor First Baptist Church, Hokes Bluff, Ala.
Like thousands of other Southern Baptist churches, First Baptist Church of Hokes Bluff, Ala., has a long and treasured history of missions involvement. Several of our families have served as foreign missionaries. We have given substantially to missions through our local association, the Cooperative Program and special Southern Baptist Convention offerings.
Yet despite that long history, it has been nearly 15 years since our last missionary family left the field. This has left us feeling more and more disconnected from the missionaries we support.
The need to reconnect with missions was on my mind when I called a North American Mission Board (NAMB) mobilizer last year to talk about Send North America. 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 that 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 that people from all over the world were immigrating to the 32 Send North America cities. 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 providing 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, too.
When Steve announced the decision, the church decided we wouldn’t let his family go alone. We would be sending him. We made a commitment to give 3 percent of our church budget to the new 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. 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.