Monday, March 23, 2015

We Passed Another Hurdle

Last week my wife and I sat down with Charles Campbell and Eddie Pullen, members of the Illinois Baptist State Association Church Planting Team, to discuss the results of our recent Invest assessment for church planters. When we went began the assessment process I spent a lot of time working through a book and preparing documents. Then we went through the actual assessment, which was a series of interviews with assessment teams. They asked a lot of questions, and either wrote notes on paper or entered notes in a computer. We had no idea what they wrote. But the process was good.

So when we sat down with Charles Campbell and Eddie Pullen we were looking forward to finding out if we had “passed.” The good news is that we have passed that stage. The results will be passed on to the North American Mission Board. We are trusting that God will lead us through this next stage.

We are still moving forward. While we wait to hear from NAMB we are in the process of seeking a church to serve as our sending church. I am looking for a job, and we are looking for a place to live. We are also praying that God will lead us to the “person of peace” that we need to discover in order to begin the planting process.

We will be planting a “house church” in East Alton, Illinois. House churches are small, with an attendance that usually is between ten and thirty people. East Alton is a town in the metro-east area of St. Louis. The population of East Alton is just a little over 10,000 people. The town mimics the U.S. average with a third of the population uninvolved in a faith experience, one-third somewhat involved, and one-third actively involved. The average age of the people is 41 years old.

Right now we are looking for prayer support. Here is a list of our prayer needs:

  • Pray for our approval from the North American Mission Board.
  •  Pray for a sending church to come alongside us.
  •  Pray that God will provide employment for me.
  •   Pray that God will provide a place for us to live.
  •   Pray for a “person of peace” as we begin to plant a church in East Alton.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Call To Church Planting

I had the joy of serving as Director of Missions for Saline Baptist Association for almost twenty years. During that time I have the privilege of promoting missions among thirty-four churches and participating in several mission trips. Our association was also involved in support church plants.

About ten years into my ministry there God began to speak to me about the need for new church plants and I took advantage of opportunities to encourage young pastors to consider church planting. At the same time God began to place a burden on my heart about a town in need of a new church plant.

As I prayed about it I also talked to other pastors and with leaders in our state office. There came a time when I finally scheduled a meeting with the state church planting strategist for that area. As we talked about the need and my desire to involve our association in supporting a church plant there he said, "Randy, it's obvious God has given you a passion for this. Maybe you should be the church planter."

I responded that it was a college town and needed a young man to serve as church planter. We prayed, I left, and they called a man to serve as church planter there. I left my position as Director of Missions and began as pastor of First Baptist Church, Ridgway, Illinois. I settled in and thought my interest in church planting was over. After all, I’m approaching retirement age! But God wasn't done with me yet.

I've served as the pastor for Ridgway FBC for almost three years, and I've had a blast. It's a loving church, and I love them. But God was using this time to speak to me about church planting. About a year ago God began to speak distinctly and consistently about church planting. I began to talk with my wife about what God was saying. Then I began to talk to a few close friends and family. Eventually I spoke to state personnel involved in church planting.

During the last few months God has clarified His call to church planting and opened doors I never expected to open. Six weeks ago I began the North American Mission Board and Illinois Baptist State Association assessment process. A week ago my wife and I went through two days of intense interviews. We are now waiting to find out the results of our recent interviews.

I am confident that we will be planting a church in the near future. We believe God has called us to plant in a specific town and a specific kind of church. In my next post I'll tell you more about it. In the meantime, pray that we will pass our next interview.

Monday, March 9, 2015

It's Been A Long Time Coming

A week ago I announced to my church family that God has called my wife and I to become church planters. In the near future we will sell some of our belongings and pack up the rest to move to the St. Louis, Missouri area to plant a new church. It's been a long time coming.

It's been awhile since my first day of school. Where we lived there was no kindergarten, so I started when I began first grade. One major event that year stands out in my life, and it was the beginning of my love for missions.

During that time the Southern Baptist Convention was in the midst of the 30,000 Movement, which was an attempt to start 30,000 new churches in America. My father was called by God to plant a new church on the west side of Rockford, Illinois. So, we loaded everything we owned into a cleaned out cattle truck and moved. I was six years old, but I remember the move and much of the next five and a half years that Dad served there.

We met in people's homes on Wednesdays and Sunday evenings. Sunday morning Sunday School and worship were held at the Odd Fellows Hall. I remember that because we always had to go early on Sundays to clean up after their Saturday night parties. I also have fond memories of the experience because a year later I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. The church moved from meeting in the Odd Fellows Hall. to a house the church built. Worship was in the basement and the main floor was used for class rooms. A couple of years later the church built a new, more traditional, church building and we moved into what became the parsonage. It was my first exposure to missions.

Through the years I have had other experiences that prepared me for my call to become a church planter. There were those trips to Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina. There, as a child and young teenager I heard missionaries tell of their call to missions and of the places they served. There were summer missionaries who stayed in our home. Later, when I surrendered to the Gospel Ministry. I was involved in short term mission trips to New York, Bulgaria, Louisiana, and several other places. God was at work in my life, preparing me for His call to become a church planter,. but I didn't see it coming.

Watch for my next post: "My Call To Church Planting."