ST. LOUIS—Leaders from St. Louis and Illinois are excited about the Send: St. Louis initiative through the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to plant churches.
The group met Jan. 23 to discuss the strategy for reaching the lost in the St. Louis metropolitan area. In addition, NAMB’s Midwest director, Steve Davis, and Scott Pittman, partnership missions director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, joined the group.
“We see this as an opportunity to get more done,” Jerry Field, Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) associate executive director, said. “Missouri Baptists have always been active in the area. However, this offers an opportunity to come together with a coordinated strategy to work with churches on both sides of the river to plant more churches.”
Ben Hess, MBC church planting director and NAMB church planting catalyst, agreed that the effort will help reach the lost.
“Send St. Louis holds potential for God’s blessing the kingdom in the greater metropolitan area,” he said. “We can focus on making disciples within the new church plants.”
Hess also sees the resources coming in as a blessing.
“Resources for the early stage of church planting will be a great help,” he said. “Resources including leadership will be a plus, but the ultimate goal for church plants is to develop stewardship. We want indigenous churches—we want it to be their church and for God to grow it.”
Efforts have begun to start more than 75 new Southern Baptist churches in the city over the next five years.
“I’m thinking that there can be a faithful gospel presence literally in every community in St. Louis,” said Kenny Petty, a Southern Baptist church planter in St. Louis who is starting The Gate in University City.
Only 14.8 percent of metro St. Louis’ 2.8 million people are affiliated with an evangelical church, according to the Association of Religion Data Archives. While Southern Baptists have been here since the 1800s, there is only one Southern Baptist church or church-sponsored mission for every 7,037 residents.
While there are vast church planting needs throughout the metro area, starting churches among the mostly African-American urban core is one of the highest priorities of those developing the initiative’s strategy.
“We’re like most Southern Baptists in urban environments in that we vacated our cities 30-50 years ago to go and move to the counties and suburbs,” said Jim Breeden, executive director for the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association. “So there is a huge need and gap for new church plants in the urban core.” (Tobin Perry, a writer for the North American Mission Board, contributed to this story.)
VICKI STAMPS/contributing writer