This past Sunday I read with joy the report from one of our West Coast Baptist College graduates about a church that has been planted in Fresno, California. Brother Ricky Owens, a 2001 graduate, planted the Victory Baptist Church, along with assistance from Brother Mark Irmler and his church planting ministry, a team from West Coast Baptist College, and a tremendous group from the Ambassador Baptist Church in Fresno.
I thank the Lord for Brother Owens and for others like him who are stepping out by faith to plant churches in America in this needy hour. If we will support the missionaries of tomorrow, we must continually plant churches today.
I remember planting and pastoring my first church at the age of nineteen. This church plant began while I was still in Bible college. I was asked to lead a team and preach to a small group of ladies outside of Coachella, California. To my surprise I was asked to return and preach the following week. Over the next several weeks, through soulwinning and preaching, God began to gather a group together.
At an early age, the Lord allowed me to learn what it meant to establish a doctrinal position, identify potential charter members for the church, and organize the church formally about a year later. The Seaside Baptist Church was later pastored by my dear friend, Brother Rick Houk. I thank the Lord, not only for the experience I gained during that church plant, but for the many souls who were saved and baptized.
An effective church plant must have a church planting pastor with a heart for God and lost souls leading the way. Some of the characteristics needed by a church planting pastor are:
- A compassion for lost souls. He must have a willingness to stay out on the street and amongst people sharing the good news of Christ.
- A heart for discipleship. A church planting pastor must spend much time with people in formal and informal discipleship, training them and helping them understand the Christian life.
- An ability to coalesce others around a vision of planting a new church. It is a great privilege to involve others in ministry and to allow them to enjoy the fruit of their labor for Jesus Christ.
- A clear understanding of the doctrinal position and distinctives of the church. In my case, I had a sound, fundamental doctrinal statement and a firm commitment to the Baptist distinctives in my mind, even at an early age. There was no question the church would be Baptist and the ones who signed the charter would be saved members who were either baptized in our church in the early days, or who came by statement of faith from another Baptist church.
- A commission from another church. The church planter, himself, must be commissioned by another church and recognize that the church plant is a ministry out of the sending church until the charter service takes place. One of the first orders of business at the new service is for the church to formally call the pastor to lead in this ministry.
- A commitment to his family. The church planter must involve, not neglect, his family during the early days of church planting. Although Terrie and I were newlyweds during that church plant, we enjoyed serving the Lord together every step of the way!
No doubt there are many other characteristics of an effective church plant. But I pause today to thank the Lord for Brother Ricky Owens and the new church planted in Fresno, and I salute every man involved in Baptist church planting across America today. We need churches with that youthful feel and that fire for the Lord that sometimes older churches lose. May God bless these men as they labor for Him!
The video below is from a trip WCBC students made last year to the Seaside Baptist Church. I’m thankful for the young men studying here who have surrendered their lives to the Lord and have a burden for church planting.