April 22, 2003
WARSAW – A unified, intentional emphasis on church planting is starting to pay off within the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) and among the convention’s 66 associations.
Jim Henderson, director of missions (DOM) for Fellowship Baptist Association, already has facilitated two church plants with a third on the way. Feeding off the vision of MBC Executive Director David Clippard and the availability of Jerry Field, state director of church planting, Henderson recently put on a training session at Baptist Ridge Camp in Warsaw for people from 19 churches in nine associations.
"Now that Jerry Field is going to be able to give undivided attention to church planting, I think that is going to be a real asset to the state," Henderson said.
Henderson’s philosophy is to not wait on the North American Mission Board for a full-time church planter. Instead he identifies pastors and laymen within his association who want to do the work, then supports them. Two of those key leaders have been Durward Scott, pastor of Vista Baptist Church in Osceola, and lay preacher Ken Taylor of Osceola.
Don’t become keepers of the aquarium, Henderson said. Become fishers of men.
"When we go out and demonstrate that it can be done, and what the benefits are, then I think that encourages others," he said. "A lot of what we hear seems to be geared for large population areas. They are important. They need to be reached. But at the same time, in our small, rural associations, we have hundreds and even thousands of people that are spread out but they still need to be reached."
The first church plant that Henderson helped facilitate was in the vacant Garland Baptist Church building north of Clinton. Faith Baptist Church now runs an average Sunday School attendance in the high thirties, Taylor said.
The second church plant was Osage Ridge Baptist Church. A key ingredient here, Field said, was a base of four families "that has come along very nicely." Launched in September of 2002, it now has 11 official members and attendance in the twenties, Henderson said.
With a goal of 60 new church plants in 2003, the MBC is looking to associations like Fellowship to lead the way. Fifteen churches were planted in the first quarter of the year; a new work that is being launched in Osceola in May is part of the MBC meeting its goal of 15 church plants for the second quarter.
Taylor will be the point man for the new work. A truck driver who is cut out of the apostle Paul pattern of church planting, Taylor will be trying to lead people to Christ and mold them into church members. His outreach to Generation X – "people who wouldn’t feel like they would fit in in First Baptist Church" – can be described as radical.
"We’ll have 25 to 40 unchurched, unsaved, lost, Bible-illiterate people," Taylor said.
He predicts it will be a humbling experience. He already has experienced the encouraging dynamic of lost people inviting other lost people to the initial Bible study series.
"My fervent prayer is and always will be, ‘Lord, make it so miraculous and so supernatural that even the village idiot will be able to see that it’s the hand of God doing it, not any concept, method or individual," Taylor said.
Because the association has been taking church planting so seriously, Taylor now has an entire infrastructure of support. His pastor is Scott, a 77-year-old soul winner whose work has led to 20 people making professions of faith in February and March. His mentor is Henderson, whom he calls "Doctor Jim."
One of the obstacles Fellowship Association has had to overcome in its church planting efforts is the fact that it ministers in one of the poorest parts of the state. "St. Clair County is the third poorest in the state," Taylor noted, a condition that requires strong leadership – a characteristic that Scott said Henderson possesses.
"He’s a leader of pastors like no director of missions I’ve ever witnessed," Scott said. "He’s a pastor’s friend, but he’s also a professional. I’m amazed that we still have him."
Scott can see the day when the association plants yet another church. He has been working the territory along Highway 54 from El Dorado Springs to Collins, where another church is needed. To Taylor’s way of thinking, when leaders get on the same page as they have been within this association, church planting comes as a clear move of God.
"The main thing I’ve learned is that the Word of God is more powerful and more important than anything I’ve got to say about the Word of God," Taylor said. "The Holy Spirit leads, we need the sower, the seed is the Word, the soil is the lost. When all four of those elements come together, a church plant is just a natural result."