I recently asked Willy Rice, senior pastor of Calvary Church in Clearwater, if it is realistic to think that smaller Florida Baptist churches can play a significant role in church planting.
His answer convinced me that he’s confident church planting is based on heart and leadership—not size and scope.
“Even in a smaller church I think focusing on multiplication is a kingdom mindset,” Pastor Willy says. “Obviously, in a smaller church you’re just busting it—doing everything you know to do to survive—and I get that. We need to be helping each other. That’s where partnership does come in.
“I think we’ve got a great blessing because [in] Baptist life—and I said this when I served as president of the Florida Baptist State Convention—we have a network. So to me we get the best of both worlds. You don’t have centralized authority, which has harmed a lot of denominations, but you have a partnership. And in that partnership everybody can have a role; everybody can be a part and share the blessing and share the labor.”
And, Pastor Willy points out, the concept has worked so well that many nondenominational churches have formed their own church-planting networks.
“Even nondenominational churches usually find alliances, fellowships that they’re a part of,” he said. “They immediately go, ‘How can we work to do missions? How can we work to do church planting?’ And they begin to form partnerships. And that’s all we’ve done.
“I tell nondenominational churches, ‘Listen, in 50 years you’re going to be doing the same thing we’re doing. So why not help us now? Come be a part of what we’re doing today,’ ” Willy says with a smile on his face.
I will have more to share from my interview with Pastor Willy on our website in the coming days. I posted a blog about how he is leading Calvary through what he calls the “multiplication” method of church expansion on Feb. 2. The link is here: http://gofbw.com/blog?id=1481. And Pastor Willy’s comments on what he thinks divides us as Southern Baptists can be found in this Feb. 6th blog. Here’s that link: http://gofbw.com/blog?id=1488
A video of our conversation will appear on goFBW.com later this month, and an edited version of our conversation will appear as the “Behind the Pulpit” feature in the March print edition of the Florida Baptist Witness, which will be mailed on Feb. 23th.
For full-length videos of other Behind the Pulpit interviews, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGeuDJTCKQk&t=4s for our interview with Mac Brunson, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkNqtJ9fW0s&list=LLSg_Uju4UknAFccaOa2VF7w for our interview with Ken Whitten, senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in the Tampa suburb of Lutz.
Kevin Bumgarner is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness. He can be reached via email at kbumgarner@goFBW.com, and followed on Twitter @FBW_editor