By Tim Wicker, Team Leader of the ABSC Church Planting Team
“The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.” – C. Peter Wagner, Church Planting for a Greater Harvest
This is an oft-quoted, widely accepted statement by one of the foremost missiologists in recent history, C. Peter Wagner. Across the board, nationally and internationally, this statement seems to hold true. New churches reach new people. Starting churches is a part of our Great Commission heritage and strategy of making disciples of all peoples.
The questions we as Arkansas Baptists must continually ask are, “How effective are we in starting new Southern Baptist churches?” and “How effective are these new churches in reaching new people?”
A recent study of church plants in Arkansas over the last 10 years (2006–2015) revealed the following:
- The Arkansas Baptist State Convention partnered with Arkansas Baptist churches to start 266 new works, an average of 26.6 new churches a year.
- Nine out of 10 of churches started during this time are still in existence after five years (92 percent success rate).
- Over 4,760 new believers were baptized during this time, according to new church starts’ reports.
- In 2015 alone, 299 new believers were baptized by 48 new works still under partial ABSC funding.
- New churches started during this time reported giving over $1.6 million to missions through the Cooperative Program (each new work that receives ABSC assistance commits to giving back at least 6 percent through CP).
What do these numbers tell us?
- Church planters and core teams are reaching the unchurched and underserved across our state by starting new Southern Baptist churches.
- These works are more than just new worship services—they are full expressions of the body of Christ.
- New church starts in Arkansas reach lost people with the Gospel, baptize them, and make disciples of them.
- These new disciples are participating in evangelism and in missions.
- They each not only affirm the Baptist Faith & Message, but they give generously to missions through the Cooperative Program, and they are unashamedly evangelistic in their own communities and beyond.
During the same timeframe of this study (2006–2015), 167 ABSC churches closed down, with an average of 16.7 closures a year (up from 13 closures a year during the previous 10 years). There is a direct correlation between the number of churches and baptisms in Arkansas, which means that for every church that closes there is both a need and an opportunity.
One of the 167 churches that closed its doors within the last 10 years has recently seen new life. A new African American church start, Second Baptist Church Turrell, now occupies the facilities of the old First Baptist Church Turrell. At the time of this article, six teenagers have come to know Christ since the beginning of the summer and have been baptized in this new work.
We do need to start more churches because church planting reaches people and gathers them together. There is heart behind churches like Second Baptist Turrell, Mercy Tree Cowboy Fellowship, The Sanctuary, Northview Church, and Vertical Community Church. We start churches to make disciples, which in turn produce healthy partners for the Great Commission.