FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Jeff Christopherson called students and faculty members to seek the lost throughout the continent during the North American Church Planting Emphasis at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, March 26-28.
“What is worse than being lost? There is one thing: Being lost, and nobody is looking for you,” Christopherson, vice president of the Canada region for the North America Mission Board, said. “Let that sink in, because that is the reality of a lot of North America. They have not rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They haven’t heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, nor had their parents.”
While one Southern Baptist church exists for every 1,300 people in Mississippi and one for every 3,350 people in Texas, one Southern Baptist church exists for every 59,000 people in New York and for every 115,000 people in Canada.
“Often, people talk about measuring lostness: ‘Our area is 80 percent unchurched,’” Christopherson said. “And really, that is the wrong measurement. It is not about the percentage of lostness. It is how many people are actually out there looking for the lostness.”
Christopherson said NAMB is attempting to mobilize people to areas like New York and Quebec, where people have lived for generations without hearing the Gospel. Churches, he said, must value the expansion of God’s kingdom more than value the internal affairs of their own church. Considering some parables of Jesus about the kingdom of God, Christopherson said that the kingdom has more to do with weakness than with strength, and the kingdom of God requires instant obedience.
Students responded positively to Christopherson’s challenge.
“For me to be able to follow the Lord, I have to be obedient to what He wants me to do,” Rodel Chiu, a student leader for Southwestern’s Fellowship of North American Church Planters, said, reflecting on Christopherson’s sermon. Recently, Chiu was given an opportunity to reach out to his own people group, Filipinos, who live in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Although he continues to seek God’s will in this, Christopherson’s words reminded him that he must follow God immediately, wherever He leads. Chiu added that the church planting emphasis at Southwestern also reminded students that God can use them to reach many lost people even in the United States.
Clarity Thoreson, another student leader for the church planting fellowship, agrees.
“God, in his sovereignty, is moving people here from all over the world, especially in major cities—San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver,” Thoreson said. “We talk about strategies how to reach our own people, the American people or Canadian people, but you also have to take into consideration, ‘How do you reach the Chinese population in Vancouver? How do you reach the Muslim population in Toronto?’ … Even in the Dallas-Fort Worth, area, we have people from Nepal and India.
“Still there are pockets, areas, where there are no churches, where there are no outreaches being done. … So I believe that the church planting week is about opening our eyes to see the need to plant churches where people are not being reached for the Gospel, and it is just as much a need here as it is overseas. Both are needed.”
Similarly Steve Lee, professor of Baptist Church Planting, said that Southwestern’s North American Church Planting Emphasis exists to make students aware of church planting on the continent and to enable them to pray for revival in North America.
“I was very delighted to see many new students being awakened for the first time to God’s leading in their lives, related to church planting—particularly, some of the college students,” Lee said.
Throughout the week, he added, students learned from church planters who serve throughout North America, and several students interested in church planting were able to connect personally with missionaries serving on the field.