By Lee Stephenson

Editor’s note: Several years ago, the leaders of Converge (formerly known as the Baptist General Conference) decided to make church planting a top priority for their denomination. The results have been nothing less than spectacular, and the Lord has richly blessed Converge’s church planting initiatives. Since the GARBC has launched a similar push for church planting within our association, we invited one of Converge’s representatives to address our constituency via the Baptist Bulletin on the importance of church planting.

I remember the sentence that changed everything for me, like it was yesterday: “The most effective way to reach people for Jesus is to start new churches.” That was all I needed to hear to launch me into the exciting and scary world of church planting.

In those early days, I underestimated the difficulty and the pushback I would receive from other Christians and even Christian leaders. They would look at me puzzled as I shared my vision for a new church. Then, without provocation, they’d ask, “Why would you start a new church when so many of our existing churches have a need and are declining in impact?” They were implying it would be better to reach people using the resources and churches that already exist—a completely understandable point of view and something to think about when a church planter comes asking for help.