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.