Throughout our history, Arkansas Baptists have been working together to fulfill the Great Commission. One of the ways we have done that is through church planting, here in Arkansas and around the world. We have partnered together in starting new churches by supporting new works with prayer and resources, by sponsoring and adopting new planters and their missions, and by sending our own planters, out of our churches, to start new churches.
Over the last couple of years, there have been over 20 Arkansas Baptist State Convention churches that have worked through a process of becoming a “Sending Church.” Working together with other churches and the Church Planting Team at the ABSC in two “Sending Church Cohorts,” these churches have developed plans to identify, equip, and send out church plants from their churches on a regular basis.
Over a course of three months, they sought to answer these three key questions:
- Who is the Lord preparing and calling out of our church, or in our circle of influence, to lead or be a part of a new church plant? (Identify)
- How do we equip and invest in these future leaders, preparing them for the ministry the Lord is calling them to? (Equip)
- Where and how is the Lord leading us to send out these new works? (Send)
During Session One “Identify,” we looked at characteristics of successful church planters, Biblical qualifications, and ways to be a part of “Calling out the Called.” Who in your church does the Lord seem to have His hand on? Who is leading people to Jesus, showing a shepherding heart, and initiating new small groups or classes?
In Session Two “Equip,” we talked about models for teaching and training these future leaders/church planters. Depending on their maturity level and where they are spiritually, there needs to be a process in place to help them grow. This can and is being done organically and intentionally in leadership pipelines, internships, and church planting residencies. Since each church has its own unique DNA, each one of them is learning how to pour into these future church planters in strategic ways.
Session Three emphasized ways for churches to “Send.” Each church at the “Sending Church Cohort” looked at ways the Lord was opening up doors and giving them direction to plant new churches locally and nationally, as well as the opportunity of replanting or adopting closed or dying churches in their areas. A few churches are looking at sending out teams of leaders and members as a core for the new plant. Some churches are planning on full support, while other churches are thinking about sending out bi-vocational or co-vocational planters.
Coming out of the cohorts, four or five of these “Sending” churches are planning to start some sort of Church Planting Residency in the coming months. Church planting residencies typically last from 9-12 months and include church planter training, spiritual growth development, and on the job ministry opportunities to help prepare the future planter for the launching of a new mission, campus, or church. Each residency will look different as the Sending Church pours into its residents their unique DNA.
We are so thankful for how the Lord is clearly at work as Arkansas Baptists continue to identify, equip, and send out Arkansas Baptists to be a part of fulling the Great Commission.