ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) -- Last year was an encouraging one for church planting by Southern Baptists. According to new statistics released by the North American Mission Board, the number of plants reported by state convention partners grew by 27 percent -- from 780 to 990 -- between 2010 and 2011.
|"Southern Baptist churches and state convention partners are doing the work to start new churches."
--Kevin Ezell, mission board president
These figures represent the first two-year span using a new church planting reporting procedure instituted in 2010, whereby all NAMB-reported new starts were required to have received an SBC ID. Distributed by LifeWay Christian Resources, SBC IDs are usually obtained through Baptist associations, state conventions or the SBC Executive Committee and are essential to identify and track congregations uniquely.
"I think it is important for people to know that we take the task of tracking these new plants very seriously," said Aaron Coe, NAMB's vice president for mobilization. "We have pastors' names and emails so that we can contact them, encourage and support them. And we have the physical addresses of the churches to assist us in strategic placement of future new plants. We want to do whatever it takes to help them survive and thrive in the SBC long-term."
This reported increase comes after NAMB announced a new goal of a net gain of 5,000 new congregations by 2022. To reach that goal, the number of church plants will have to continue to climb. Because an average of 880 SBC churches per year ceased to exist from 1999 to 2009, NAMB expects Southern Baptists will need to start more than 13,000 churches during the next decade to reach the 2022 goal.
The growth in the number of church plants in 2011 comes as a pleasant surprise to NAMB leadership. Coe expected the number of church plants to either remain the same or slightly decline in 2011.
"We thought our starting point might be 650 or so -- instead it's 990," he said. "It's way ahead of where we thought we would be. It's a very positive sign."
NAMB President Kevin Ezell credited churches and state convention partners for the increase.
"The changes we've been making at NAMB have not yet fully impacted the field, but Southern Baptist churches and state convention partners are doing the work to start new churches," Ezell said. "I can't wait to see what God will do in the years ahead."
Coe believes the increased convention-wide focus on church planting, a focus by NAMB on mobilizing bivocational planters and a more effective equipping plan for church plants and partnering churches will boost the number of plants over the goal in the coming years.
The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, the Georgia Baptist Convention and the Florida Baptist Convention all showed significant increases in the number of new churches with SBC IDs in 2011.
"We believe God is moving in Maryland and Delaware," said David Lee, executive director of the two-state convention. Our motto has been: 'Moving at the speed of God.' He is really moving! To God be the glory."
Lee says the BCMD believes new church plants are the best way to reach the unchurched in Maryland and Delaware. Lee hopes by strengthening existing churches and partnering them with church plants that plant churches they will establish a church planting movement in the region.
"We also believe that the success of these new churches will motivate our existing churches to re-dream their dreams of evangelism and missions," Lee said.
NAMB missionary and church planter Brian Moon, featured in the summer issue of On Mission magazine, started one of those Maryland/Delaware churches with a new SBC ID in 2011. The young Korean church planter believes God led him to just the right location for his new plant in a North Bethesda, Md., neighborhood.
The church now hosts about 40 people from Japanese, Korean and American families on Saturday evenings for children's activities, English classes and Bible studies. On the first Saturday night of each month about 50 people of various backgrounds attend a worship service at the church. Many of the Japanese families who have become involved in Life Mosaic Church come from a Buddhist background and have had little or no exposure to the Gospel.
"I never thought [we'd reach the] Japanese," Moon said. "It's amazing to us. It just formed in our hearts that this kind of church was needed."
Tobin Perry is a writer for the North American Mission Board.