ST. LOUIS – Putting the finishing touch on five years of Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) service, John Marshall, outgoing president and pastor of Second Baptist Church, Springfield, called for a greater church planting resurgence in the United States during his presidential address at the 178th annual meeting of the MBC here.
Introduced by his wife, Ruth, he took to the podium with the audience giving him a standing ovation. His sermon was based on 1 Thessalonians, a letter to one of the original “new church plants.” He said Missouri Baptist churches would do well to learn many of the lessons Paul taught the church at Thessalonica.
“There’s an amazing church planting movement going on in the U.S.,” Marshall said. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my lifetime. But the churches you and I grew up in have a fortress mentality. The believers are on the inside of the building, and we’re holding off the opponents on the outside.
“But there’s a new generation of church leaders that have risen up that have chosen to blur the battle lines, to venture outside the fortress to confront evil in its own backyard. They’re ambushing Satan in his territory and setting up Kingdom outposts in pre-fab buildings, warehouses, storefronts, schools, houses, theaters, barns and wherever a group can get together. They are the hope for our future; I’m convinced of it!”
Marshall said he does not discount established or older churches’ commitment or role in the Kingdom, but argued statistics show that newer churches account for greater percentages of baptisms and church growth.
“New churches can do a mighty work for God,” he said. “I fear that sometimes we look down on the young man that starts a church in a storefront or meets in his basement. If we learn anything about the church in Thessalonica, it’s that a new church can do mighty works for God.
“It wasn’t a mega-church,” Marshall said. “Spiritual success does not always mean big. The church planting revivals in the country have come out of churches sized 50-200. Small is not bad. In fact, it needs to become our new good. We took the world before we built a building. That’s how we took the Roman empire, and I believe that’s how we will take America.”
Marshall wondered to the crowd if perhaps churches are reluctant to take on a role in church planting because they fear competition.
“It won’t put your church out of business,” he said. “It will give your church life for 100 more years to come. Don’t be afraid.”
Marshall said that if churches are going to plant churches to reach the United States, they must also overcome a fear of change.
“If we’re going to change the culture, then we’re going to have to decide to engage society in culturally recognizable ways. Let them think outside the box. We don’t want clones of our churches. We want churches that will be biblically faithful and methodologically new.
“We like to talk about our biblical inerrancy, and we need that,” Marshall said. “We like to talk about evangelism and missions, and we need to do those. But if you want to win America, start new churches. That’s what it’s going to take.”