In March of this year, Filipino International Baptist Church North in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, celebrated its one-year anniversary by baptizing eight new believers. That brought the total number of baptisms for the first year of the church to 17.
Church planting missionary Bayani Taligato says his approach has been simple.
"We joined God in what He is doing in Edmonton north, prayed that He would open opportunities so we can share the Gospel boldly, visited and invited people," Taligato said. "God continues to open new opportunities."
Last September, Japan native Kenji Adachi launched All Peoples Church in Fairfax, Va., just outside Washington, D.C. Already the church is averaging 120 attenders on Sundays, and in May the church baptized four new believers.
Palm Vista Baptist Church in Phoenix launched in March 2016 and averages 60 in Sunday attendance. The church, pastored by church planting missionary Andrew Bailey, has baptized seven new believers since launching.
Taligato, Adachi and Bailey are three Southern Baptist church planters who are part of the "Class of 2016," and are already impacting their communities for Jesus in significant ways. Their churches are among the 732 new congregations Southern Baptists started in 2016. In addition, 232 churches began cooperating with the SBC in 2016, bringing the total number of new congregations to 964.
"We celebrate every new church that has been added and all of the souls they are already reaching for Christ," said Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board. "In addition, we are grateful for every sending church and for every pastor who is putting resources into a new church. I am a firm believer that churches plant churches and churches send missionaries."
Ezell also reaffirmed his belief that church planting is the most effective, long-term approach to evangelizing North America.
"Jesus established His Church to advance His Kingdom here on earth," Ezell said. "I don't think we can improve on that. We have to do everything we can to help established churches reach people for Christ, but we also need more churches—new churches—that will be a Gospel presence in their communities for decades to come."
Ezell has prioritized church planting during his tenure at NAMB in part because of the ground Southern Baptists have lost in the church-to-population ratio since the beginning of the 20th Century. In 1900, there was one Southern Baptist church for every 3,800 people in North America. By 2010 that gap had grown to one for every 6,100 people.
The need for new churches is most dramatic in cities. In Boston there is only one Southern Baptist church for every 39,257 people; in New York City the ratio is 1:70,519; and in Montreal the ratio is 1:112,994.
In addition to placing a higher emphasis on church planting, NAMB has consistently raised its standards for plants and planters. The new NAMB planter assessment process is much more comprehensive and focused on sending planters to the field better prepared. A "planter pipeline" process has established intern and apprentice roles that allow future church planters to gain valuable experience on the field.
NAMB developed and hosts a church planter orientation twice annually, which focuses on equipping planters for the challenges and successes of ministry. Undergirding it all, NAMB has built a Church Planter Care ministry focused on encouraging and supporting planters and their families as well as building relationships and a sense of brotherhood among church planters.
In addition, NAMB established new minimum requirements that must be met before it will include a church plant in its overall yearly count.
"I am convinced that the changes we have made are increasing the likelihood of success for the church planters and church plants we are placing on the field," said Jeff Christopherson, vice president of Send Network.
"But it also means we are counting fewer new churches than we did prior to 2010," he said. "North America is a tougher mission field than ever before and demands a better prepared church planter. Slowing down their deployment through careful preparation is our best chance to turn quality into the quantity of churches that North America so desperately needs."
NAMB helps Southern Baptists plant new churches all over North America. Most are funded through partnerships with state Baptist conventions.
In addition, NAMB has established 32 Send Cities in the United States and Canada where special church planting efforts are focused through partnerships with churches and additional funding and resources from NAMB.
For more information about church planting, visit the Send Network area on namb.net.
This article was released by the communications staff at the North American Mission Board.