LENEXA, Kan. — Lenexa Baptist Church has joined the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC).
The suburban Kansas City megachurch can now be counted among about a half a dozen similarly sized MBC churches while also retaining its affiliation with the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists. In November its Sunday average was 2,470 at both its main campus and a second site in Greenwood, Mo.
“We intend on having multiple churches in Missouri,” said Steve Dighton, who on Jan. 21, 2013, will mark the 23rd year of his call to be the church’s founding pastor. Sites for these church plants are known, but not for public release.
Dighton, whose church has been recognized nationally as a trendsetter (see related story on p. 2), said that the influence of prominent church members who happen to be Missourians did not play as much of a role in the decision as did other factors.
“We’ve got a lot of seminary vice presidents, and professors, and students,” he said. “We’ve probably got a couple of hundred people who live in Missouri, but it really wasn’t that they were driving it as much as just the timing seemed to be right for us to do something.”
About a dozen years ago, a preacher by the name of John Yeats served as the interim pastor at Dighton’s home church, First Baptist of Ada, Okla. The two became friends, and Yeats is now serving as executive director of the MBC.
“That was certainly a part of it,” Dighton said. “That was probably the deal-closer, being with him.”
Yeats reflected on what it means to have Lenexa Baptist as a key partner in MBC missions.
“We are thrilled to welcome Lenexa Baptist to the Missouri Baptist Convention,” he said. “It’s been amazing to watch what the Lord has done through Dr. Dighton and the church. Steve’s biblical integrity, strategic thinking and ministry coaching is recognized all across the Southern Baptist Convention. I believe Lenexa’s leadership as a part of our Missouri Baptist family will help us make strides toward our leadership potential in reaching the Heartland with the gospel.”
When Lenexa Baptist acquired the former First Baptist Church, Greenwood, and renamed it about 1.5 years ago as The Fellowship @ Greenwood, it discovered that rotating staff members in to fill the pulpit had its limitations. Eight months ago the church called Chad McDonald, a 34-year-old graduate of Southwest Baptist University, as the pastor for The Fellowship to serve as Dighton serves.
“He really is the leader over there alongside of me,” Dighton said. “He doesn’t make any church decisions independent of us. We still do all the management. But other than that, he’s pretty much the leader and the pastor. We just supply resources. I meet with him on a weekly basis. We preach the same texts. We’re doing the same emphasis. There’s a coordination of all of that.”
With a main campus of some 2,300 worshippers “not five minutes from the Missouri line,” Dighton said that he and his staff members have enjoyed quality fellowship with Missouri Baptist pastors down through the years.
“We’re really working hard to stay mission-driven,” he said. “We probably have previously kind of leaped over the city in trying to reach the world, so we’re really trying to re-think that.”
Dighton said that the total giving to Cooperative Program ministries by Lenexa Baptist is “probably 7+” percent. The breakdown is 2 percent to Kansas-Nebraska, 2 percent to the MBC, and 2-3 percent or so to various national entities including the International Mission Board, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He said he does not know of any other Kansas-Nebraska congregation that is launching out to where Lenexa Baptist is sailing in terms of joining the MBC.
“We’re honored to be a part of Missouri Baptists,” he said. “We really feel like that we’ve been a little bit on the outside looking in. We’ve been right at the window sill peeking in, I guess, because we’ve been so close.
“To be involved in a strong convention like Missouri is a good thing. So we’re glad about that. I know it’s a little bit unique, but we still feel it’s right and good for us and hopefully we’ll be a blessing to the convention as well.”