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Church planting residencies, training sessions prepare Alabama to be ‘a sending state’comment (0)

October 17, 2013

By Grace Thornton

Church planting residencies, training sessions prepare Alabama to be ‘a sending state’

Michael Johnson loves Hillcrest Baptist Church, Enterprise, and he’s loved taking his wife and daughters there with him while he’s been stationed at Fort Rucker over the past few years.

But over time, he began to feel like it was time to do something different.

It was time to “start a church from scratch.”

Through godly counsel, “a lot of prayer” and spending time in Scripture, Johnson felt drawn to church planting.

“Through various things, God laid on my heart the idea of going out and starting a church,” he said. “I’ve just been waiting for the right time.”

The right time became apparent, he said, when Travis Dunham, Hillcrest Baptist’s missions pastor, approached him about a pilot project he was starting in the church in conjunction with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) — a church planting residency.

It has been an experience that Johnson calls a confirmation from God that his family is being led to a good thing.

“God’s timing is always perfect,” said Lamar Duke, SBOM church planting strategist. 

Johnson, who has been in the church planting residency since August, ends his time in the Army at the end of 2013.

He had been praying for God to make it clear where he wanted the family to go, and gradually they began to feel God wanted them to return to Washington — their home state — and start The River Church.

“God impressed on my heart the city of Yakima. So many of the churches are struggling there, and there are so few of them,” Johnson said. “There’s no movement right now to reach that area.”

How do you make that move to get something going in an area where there’s currently nothing?

Duke said the answer “is to follow the Lord” and pursue available resources.

Hillcrest, he said, has done “an awesome job” at preparing Johnson and another residency participant, Aaron Wine.

“They have reading assignments, weekly training … and they are learning the nuts and bolts of what it takes to plant a church,” Duke said. 

Hillcrest also created an additional worship service designed to model for Johnson and Wine what it takes to reach a segment of the population that’s not being reached.

“It’s been a great pilot project, and we hope to duplicate it across the state,” Duke said of the church planting residency. “I’d love to see 20 of them in the next few years intensively preparing people for planting.”

He calls the strategy “church planting in Alabama and beyond,” something he hopes will foster an Acts 1:8 mentality in churches across the state.

“We want to be a sending state,” he said. “We need churches here but beyond as well.”

Duke’s office at the SBOM helps recruit interns as well as helps churches set up internships or residencies to train them.

“Some churches already have an idea of where they’d like to go with church planting. Some need some guidance along the way. We’re here to serve them however they need it,” he said.

More than 200 Alabama Baptists have gone through Basic Training Journey in 2013, with more training opportunities still to come in October.

“Basic Training Journey is an intensive three-day training for planters and core group members of new church plants,” Duke said, noting that the next basic training is Oct. 17–19 at First Baptist Church, North Mobile, in Saraland. “God is bringing us some solid planters and amassing some core groups, but we need more sending churches,” he said.

Duke hopes to cultivate those sending churches through a new type of training called Churches Planting Churches.

“If your church is considering the possibility of planting a church, this training will provide you with a clear six-step process to follow,” he said.

The next Churches Planting Churches training is set for Oct. 24–26 at First Baptist Church, Foley.

It is provided to churches free of charge, thanks to the Cooperative Program (CP).

“There’s no way we can do this without CP funding,” Duke said. “It costs a considerable amount to put these trainings on, and we give them away.”

The CP also provides salary support and start-up funds for church planters, as well as mobile chapels and other resources.

For more information, contact Duke at lduke@alsbom.org or 1-800-264-1225, ext. 332.

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