New church plants double in 2015
Illinois Baptist church planters started 20 new congregations in 2015, an increase of 10 from last year’s number.
“We are very grateful to the Lord for the increased harvest of new churches this year,” said Van Kicklighter, associate executive director for IBSA’s Church Planting team. “At the same time, we feel the burden of knowing that 20 new church plants doesn’t begin to impact the huge number of people in Illinois who need to hear the gospel message.”
In October, Kicklighter and his team welcomed a group of potential church planters for an assessment event that will help determine their next steps in the planting process. Edgar Rodriguez, a candidate from Illinois, said the state’s diversity draws would-be planters.
“Not just in Chicago, but in [all of] Illinois…Individuals are coming in from all over the world, so I think it’s good ground for the gospel and leaders from various places in the world to be trained up and eventually be sent out.”
Thomas Clark wants to plant a new church in Chicago. “This is a place where souls are needing to be saved,” he said, noting that Christ’s blood can have an impact there. “There’s a lot of blood being shed in Chicago, but with the right blood, we can make a difference.”
New churches are needed outside Chicagoland too. Tim Swigart and his wife are Midwest natives and self-described “farm kids.” They’re exploring planting possibilities in Northwest Illinois, the state’s most unchurched region.
“The motif of ‘planting’ is an apt one in understanding why some years produce a large harvest of new churches and other years a smaller harvest,” Kicklighter said. “As in the parable of the sower, some seed falls on good soil while other seed falls on hard and rocky soil.
“We are seeking to increase the number of people and churches who are sowing in the mission fields of Illinois and the amount of gospel seed that is sown.”
Bryan Coble and his wife, Marci, are two potential “sowers” from Missouri. At the assessment event, Bryan said planters are drawn to Illinois not just to plant churches, but to “make disciples that will plant churches themselves.”
Local churches are key to more church plants, Kicklighter said. IBSA’s Church Planting team has implemented a pray-partner-plant strategy to engage more congregations in the planting process.
“This year the Lord has blessed our sowing and gave us an increased harvest,” Kicklighter said. “Some of this is a reflection of the work of our staff and some is the result of more praying, partnering, and planting churches.”