By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
ALEXANDRIA – Louisiana Baptist church plants enjoyed great health and growth during 2016, and to date are on pace for another banner in 2017.
A BANNER YEAR
According to a recent report by Louisiana Baptists’ missions and ministry team, church plants recorded 26,933 evangelistic contacts and 1,329 decisions to follow Christ in 2016. In all, 33 new churches were started and 360 people baptized by new congregations last year.
A STRONG START
With only partial data for 2017, things are looking good for this year as well.
In January, church plants reported 1,859 evangelistic contacts and 83 new commitments to Christ. Also during that month, five new churches were started and 12 were baptized.
The number of new church plants for February and March will be reported together at one time in April.
However, baptisms and evangelistic contact statistics were released for February, showing church plants had baptized 60 people and recorded 4,615 evangelistic contacts.
A REASON FOR HOPE
Lane Corley is optimistic that when the numbers for how many churches were planted in February and March are released, the trend will show Louisiana Baptists are on track to plant 35 new churches this year.
If that happens, 2017 would be the third consecutive year of having planted 30 or more new churches in Louisiana.
“We are excited to see new churches being planted,” said Corley, a church planting strategist for Louisiana Baptists. “We’re also excited about partnerships that are flourishing with associations and with sponsor churches taking ownership of the mission to start new churches.
“And most importantly we’re excited to see the evangelistic impact of church planting across the state, with now over 10,000 new commitments to Christ reported by church plants since 2010,” he continued. “It’s my prayer that by 2020, we’ll see not only the 300 churches planted, but 25,000 new commitments to Christ through this 2020 Initiative.”
The President’s 2020 Commission Final Report, which was affirmed by messengers during the 2013 LBC Annual Meeting, set a goal of 300 new churches to be planted between 2010 and 2020.
With just four years remaining, Louisiana Baptists must plant 135 more new churches to hit the mark, so 35 new works in 2017 will keep the effort on pace.
Planting healthy, biblically sound, multiplying churches is a key component to the multi-year strategy, which seeks to engage two audiences – the next generation and every people group – in reaching Louisiana with the Gospel.
SOUTH LOUISIANA STRATEGY
The strategy places a special emphasis on planting churches where most Louisianans live, concentrating on the I-10 corridor and southward where 3-4 million Louisianans reside.
So far, 129 of the new church plants are located in southern Louisiana.
There also is a mix of ethnic identities among the 163 church plants established so far: 66 are predominately Anglo, 51 African-American, 26 Hispanic and nine Asian.
This is remarkable progress since 2010, when eight churches were started — seven Anglo and one Asian, with no African-American or Hispanic congregations in the mix.
Corley attributes the growth to “great partnerships and churches that want to see people reached for Christ.”
Among those reaching the community with the Gospel in southern Louisiana is Immanuel Baptist Church.
Started last summer in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans, the congregation is located within one of the oldest African-American communities in the nation. The core group of five adults and four children has expanded to about 50 in regular attendance.
Ministries have included monthly backyard Bible clubs and daily mentoring, as well as organizing flag football and other sports at the local community center.
Pastor Matthew Delaughter said while his congregation is predominantly Anglo, they pray often in their gatherings that God would raise up African-American leadership from the neighborhood to play key leadership roles in the congregation.
“Tremé, like other parts of New Orleans, has experienced a lot of gentrification, resulting in a lot of suspicion of anybody Anglo coming in the community,” he said. “Unlike many gentrifiers, Immanuel has come into the community not to consume Treme’s culture but to serve and invest in the community.
“This has afforded us great relationships with two of the community centers in our neighborhood, and we will collaborate with them often on different ways in serving the community,” he explained. “Also my personal engagement with people in the community has progressed from superficial conversations to people referring to me as Pastor or Rev.”
Meanwhile, House of Prayer Baptist Church in Baton Rouge celebrated its first baptism in December 2016, 11 months after first forming and just four months after receiving nearly eight feet of water in its worship center in mid-August.
Pastor James Riley said during its struggles after the historic flood God provided another facility for worship and even more blessings besides.
Since moving in with their sponsor church, Community Bible Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, the congregation has baptized nine people and is looking toward a bright future.
They hope to return to their facility sometime this year and plan to use their testimony of adversity to shine Christ’s light to the surrounding community.
“God has shown me that He is indeed the architect of the church and if we follow His blueprint He will grow the church,” Riley said. “Our blueprint has been consistent evangelism and persistent discipleship. God continues to show us through His word that as long as we trust Him, and exalt Him that He will draw the lost, the hurting, those who are broken-hearted and those who have been misled to come and be made whole.”