MBC church plants blooming
JEFFERSON CITY—The Holy Spirit moves in mysterious ways through various cultures within the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC).
State Church Planting Director Jerry Field told stories about Japanese, Hispanic and Anglo church plants to illustrate how the MBC has been blessed to start about a dozen churches in 2007.
“The Spirit called out men and put it in their heart that these people need to be reached,” Field said.
In each of these settings, a people group is being targeted through the labor and prayers of an MBC church planter. The Japanese are being reached in St. Louis through Yoshi Ubukata, the Hispanics are being reached in Anderson through Daniel Esquivel, and the Anglos are being reached in California through David Percival.
“It’s not by some careful strategy where we say, ‘This year we’re going to put a church here, here, here and here.’ That’s not it at all,” Field said. “It is more seeking for and watching for evidence of God at work, the Holy Spirit drawing forth a man.”
Field said his staff of church planting specialists has learned to wait for the right time and place. For example, a Japanese work in Cape Girardeau looked promising about three years ago. A sponsor church was eager and the Japanese people group was visible in the community. But ultimately there was no success.
“We got nowhere,” Field said, “because there wasn’t a God-called man.”
Enter Ubukata. He came to Seattle from Japan and was trained rather quickly as a church planter. When he arrived in St. Louis around October of 2006, he was drawn to a Japanese school that became a major point of connection. Rock Hill Baptist Church, St. Louis, and the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association soon came on board to both sponsor and mentor him, and the Japanese-American Baptist Ministry in West County was born.
“Yoshi’s doing an outstanding job,” Field said. “He’s a very bright and brilliant fellow.”
There aren’t very many Japanese living in McDonald County, which occupies the southwest corner of the state, but there are a lot of Hispanics. That is where Esquivel has planted Word of Life Church.
Tucked away near the borders of Oklahoma and Arkansas, Anderson is a small but significant population center that has helped the church take shape, with First Baptist Church serving as a sponsor and the Shoal Creek Baptist Association providing additional support.
Esquivel is part of an extensive church planting network that exists because of the faithful labor of MBC Multicultural Church Planting Strategist Mauricio Vargas. Vargas, who has been ministering in Missouri since 1987, trained Melvin Mendoza who in turn trained Esquivel—the third generation.
“Mauricio’s influence is just enormous, widespread, both inside and outside of the state of Missouri,” Field said. “Within the state, we’re just seeing more and more of the development of these.”
A strong level of cooperation between three churches and an association helped plant a congregation in California called Living Hope Baptist Church. Cornerstone Baptist Church, Sedalia, First Baptist Church, Oak Grove, and Corticelli Baptist Church, Russellville, all worked together with Concord Baptist Association to get the job done. Percival, 25, is mostly reaching young people in their 20s and 30s with his ministry.
“David says, ‘God has called me to reach who I was just a few years ago,’” Field said.
The birth of Missouri Baptist church plants like these indicates that the Holy Spirit continues to penetrate areas of Missouri that need to be reached with the Gospel, according to MBC Interim Executive Director David Tolliver.
“The thrust of our Convention continues to be growth through church planting and evangelism,” Tolliver said. “Whether it’s non-traditional, traditional or international churches, we are continuing to reach Missouri and the ends of the earth for Christ through church planting.”