Last week, while attending an annual meeting in a Kentucky Baptist association, I witnessed something I had never seen before. Half of the churches represented in the meeting had been planted in the past 10 or so years. The Purchase Area Baptist Association in west Kentucky has eagerly embraced church plants and church planting.
The worship time for our meeting was led by Chris Clarke, pastor of The Cowboy Church in Draffenville, a 12-year-old Kentucky Baptist church plant. The benediction prayer was led by Jaime Masso who is pastor of Mayfield First Hispanic Church, another church plant. Bob Waldridge of Yahweh Baptist, another church plant, gave testimony of how God has supplied for them following the Dec. 10 tornadoes. John “Boo” Smith, who is planting a church in Manchestery, was there because Purchase Area wants to help a church plant in another part of the state. This association is all in on church planting.
Sometimes a new church plant can be viewed as a threat in an association. It is possible some leaders may view the new church as a competitor to already-existing churches. Many of us have heard that we already have plenty of churches in our area. It is also true that there have been church planters who did not work well with other existing churches. In some cases, they have given the impression, hopefully unintentionally, that they — the new church in town — “are not your grandmother’s church” and are the only ones that really understand how to do church today. That level of hubris has done great damage to our cooperative work.
Given the relational challenges of embracing new churches, why should a local association embrace church plants and church planting in their area? Here are five reasons:
1. Because we need new churches: Each year across Kentucky, there are churches that will die and close their doors. The number is not large but also not insignificant. Each time a church closes we lose a gospel outpost that was started to reach people in that community. We need new churches to replace the ones that are dying or have died.
2. Because we need new models of ministry: Darrin Miller leads Riverwoods Church in Benton, which has been a top-baptizing Kentucky Baptist church. Darrin, who formerly pastored traditional Baptist churches, wanted to plant a church that targeted unchurched people. Riverwoods now has two other campuses and works hard to serve well alongside existing churches and participate in the association. We need new churches that aim to reach people who are far from God.
3. Because some men are called to plant churches: Many of us have seen men who could pastor an existing church but who sense the Lord leading them to plant a new church where one is needed. These men go through a vetting process to help discern their sense of calling. If God is calling men to plant new churches, then they need an association of churches to encourage them and help them build relationships with existing churches.
4. Because every Kentucky Baptist Church was a church plant at some point: I recently preached the 183rd Homecoming Anniversary for Slaty Point Baptist Church in Morehead. Years ago, it was a new church planted to impact that community with the gospel. Every existing church was a new church at some point and every new church will be an old church if it survives long enough. We need not stigmatize church plants, or value them more highly, because of their youth.
5. Because most people in Kentucky are lost and we need more churches trying to reach them: The Kentucky Baptist Convention utilizes Glenmary Research Data to understand church attendance in our state. From that information, we know that at least 80 percent of the 4.6 million residents of our state do not attend any church, anywhere, on Sunday morning. We do not need fewer churches to reach those people. We need more.
While church planting may involve relational challenges, many of our associations have discovered it is well worth the effort. If you would like to explore church planting in your association, talk to our KBC Church Planting team members by emailing ChurchPlanting@kybaptist.org, or reach out directly to your KBC Church Planting team members — Job Juarez, Toby Dehay or Eddie Torres. We are at our best when we are working together for the Great Commission, and church planting is one more way Kentucky Baptist churches are carrying out the Great Commission.