Church Planting

Church Planting Thirty Years Later

In 1982 my wife and I planted our first church in Philadelphia – Faith Independent Baptist Church. The long church name seemed awkward back then but I wanted to be sure people knew up front where I stood. Fresh from eight years of ministry training at fundamentalist schools, I was a committed independent, fundamental Baptist. As extra insurance to validate my IFB credentials, I often added “militant and separatist” as well. The church’s doctrinal statement enshrined a dispensational hermeneutic essential for correct interpretation, the pre-tribulational rapture as the next event on the prophetic calendar, and the King James Version as the official translation. As a church we were known more for what we were against than for who we were.

Fast forward to 2011 where in the same city I am now working with a team of elders to plant another church in a spiritual wasteland where we parachuted in with a few families but without a significant core group. After thirty years of church planting I claim no special expertise, offer no guarantees of success, and sense an even greater dependency upon the Lord to build His church. Similar struggles, resistance to the gospel remain.

This one-year-old church is elder led, non-denominational, non-dispensational, and uses the English Standard Version. Much has changed. Most remains the same. I would venture to add that what is essential has not changed. In areas where change has occurred, thirty years of ministry, of study, of relationships, and of experiences have conspired to bring me to the place I am today. For many years IFB was all I knew or cared to know. Now I find myself rarely at home in this fragmented movement of competing networks. I find myself increasingly on the outside looking in. This is my journey, but I’m glad I was not alone.

After planting a church in Philadelphia from 1982-1987 my family and I went to France and then Romania in church planting and pastoral training ministry. Those years spent overseas provided opportunities for fellowship with believers from different horizons and spared me the need to engage in many of the needless conflicts being fought in the States. There was less need to conform to others’ expectations of what it meant to be safely within the fundamentalist orbit.

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Taking the Gospel to the City

Reprinted with permission from Paraklesis Winter 2011. Paraklesis is a publication of Baptist Bible College & Seminary.

The cities of our world are exploding. Globally, over 500 cities now have a million or more residents. The fastest-growing cities today are in the Global South—in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In the U.S., the majority of our citizens live in our 40 largest cities.

Yet for decades Bible-believing Christians have vacated our cities. Evangelicals fled to the comfort and safety of the suburbs and small towns.

It’s time to return!

Cities are a kaleidoscope of colors and cultures. A sovereign God is internationalizing our cities. He’s brought the nations (people groups) of the world to our urban doorstep. In New York City, about 40 percent of the metro residents are foreign-born. Recent growth has been fueled by a tide of immigration from Latin, Asian and African nations. Over 400 ethnic and language groups are now represented.

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