April 22, 2003
JEFFERSON CITY – Two veteran Southern Baptist church planters have been added to the Missouri Baptist Convention Evangelism Department’s church planting staff.
- Ben Hess, pastor of First Baptist Church, Herculaneum, and formerly a 13-year career missionary with the SBC’s International Mission Board.
- John Mark Clifton, who has been working for the North American Mission Board and the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptist as a church planter.
"I’m so excited about these two men," said Roy Spannagel, MBC associate director for evangelism.
"Both of these men have a lot of quality experience in church planting. They are innovative and willing to work outside the box. Our vision is to start 60 new churches next year, 100 the following year and increase that in years to come."
Hess was called to the Herculaneum church in 1994 after returning from Africa. The church is averaging about 230 in its two Sunday morning worship services.
"I want to help God start a lot of new churches in Missouri. I hope to help Missouri Baptists catch God’s vision for multiplying the number of congregations we now have in Missouri," Hess said.
Hess said he is convinced that the way to grow a denomination is to start new congregations.
"My experience in Africa was starting new churches along the kinship and friendship line. If, for example, David Clippard has a cousin in the bootheel we’d go to him to help get a church started," Hess said.
Hess described himself as "flexible."
"When I was in Africa, I might preach in three different churches in three different languages, but it was the same Gospel," Hess explained. "I like George Beverly Shea and "How Great Thou Art," but I can also be a Jesus freak, too.
"My focus will be on the unchurched, not taking away from existing churches."
Hess served as a general evangelist in church development in Kilifi, Kenya with the Giriama people for eight years. While living on the coast of Kenya, he did personal evangelism, discipleship, church planting, training of new church leaders and community development projects.
Clifton planted the first English-speaking Southern Baptist church in Quebec. Five other churches grew out of the first church start.
While working with the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists from 1990 to 2000, Clifton designed and implemented a direct church planter training center. The center provided accredited leadership training to persons involved in church planting in the two states.