October 21, 2017

Plant Now!

A 21st Century Challenge

Dave Barba

Why Re-seed?

When I was a kid, I liked missionaries and their slide shows. A missionary was a mud-hut guy who carried water from the river, ate bugs with a smile, and preached in the jungle. He displayed snakeskins and shrunken heads. He was a real missionary, and he deserved our church’s help. But raising my interest, and our support, for home missions in the comfortable USA, was tougher.

It still is. But the USA, more than ever, needs real missionaries. For decades, Fundamentalists have been zealous to support foreign missions but have largely neglected church planting. We are our own country’s salt and light. Our 21st century challenge is to start new churches in the USA. We need to re-seed America with Bible-preaching churches because of

1. the population explosion,
2. the loss of sound churches, and
3. the need to maintain our missionary support base.

The USA Population Is Exploding

From 1990–2000, our population increased 13.2% (that’s 32.7 million people). This was the greatest increase in our history, even including the baby boom years. Every state grew during that decade.[1]

The Northeast grew by 5.5%. Once the seat of revival, it is now spiritually as cold as its winters. Many new churches are needed to complement those recently planted. Even the Midwest, with its strong Fundamentalist history, needs scores of new churches in its cities, which grew at a rate of 7.9%.

Go west, young man—and you will find countless towns with no Fundamental church. This part of the country grew 19.7% in ten years. Many think of the West as being full of movie stars and left-wingers. But it is also home to multitudes of middle-class, conservative citizens who need the Lord. Cities in the South are also growing too fast for existing churches to reach the people. At a growth rate of 17.3%, towns that were once too small for a church now need several.

As an example of the need, look at California—with its population of 34 million. One of every eight Americans is a Californian. In Los Angeles, there is one Fundamental church for every 1.2 million people. Most of our large metropolitan areas have a few Fundamental churches, but not nearly enough to meet the need. A recent survey by Bob Jones University revealed about 1200 cities in the USA with a population of 5000 or more and no Fundamental church within 30 miles.[2]

We Are Losing Sound Churches

We are losing them to unscriptural methods of growth and worship styles. Former separatists are chasing after the methods of those whose philosophy is to “be like the world to win the world.”

The sensual sound of contemporary Christian music is drawing crowds but is not turning sinful hearts to a holy God. A man-centered, entertainment-driven, low-commitment approach is producing a generation who do not know the God of the Bible. Though every believer needs to discover his purpose in life, it is impossible to drive oneself to holiness in forty days. To replace the churches we have lost, new ones must be planted by men who preach the whole counsel of God and pursue His approval rather than the praise of men.

We Must Maintain Our Missionary Support Base

America has historically been the financial and personnel base for sending Fundamental missionaries abroad. As the number of our churches shrinks, however, this base is drying up. If we fail to re-seed our land with new churches, it will eventually disappear.

Dr. David Cummins of Baptist World Missions said, “We have exhausted our local church support base for missionaries. We need to plant more churches if we are to continue to send missionaries around the world. Starting churches in the USA is a foreign missions project.”

If we fail to reach our Jerusalem, we will not reach Judea, Samaria, or the uttermost parts of the earth. Plant a church. It will support missionaries, send young people to the field, and plant more churches. Those churches will support more missionaries, plant more churches, and so on and on.

In 1974 my wife and I planted Falls Baptist Church in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, with a few families and no missionaries. Falls Baptist now supports over eighty missionaries. In 1995 we planted Trinity Baptist Church in Franklin, Tennessee, with one family and no missionaries. Trinity now supports nine missionaries.

We must keep Jerusalem strong to reach Judea and send the gospel around the world!

How Do We Re-seed?

Churches Start Churches

A church is a body, a living organism (1 Cor. 12:12). A living organism normally reproduces others. Dr. Grant Rice, church-planting consultant, says, “A sign of good health for a husband and wife is reproduction. It is the same with the church. Healthy churches should be reproducing other churches.” Church planting is every church’s responsibility.

We have helped plant churches when the “mother church” was within a few miles (like the church at Antioch with Pastor Barnabas, Acts 11:22). Others have started thousands of miles away from the sending church. Churches can start other churches with heavy local involvement or with financial and prayer support across the miles.

At Falls Baptist, our mentor was the church-planting department of Bob Jones University, which depends on the financial and prayer support of many churches. At Trinity Baptist we had the help, prayers, and input of over 30 churches. Our home church was Marquette Manor Baptist in Downers Grove, Illinois, to whom we were accountable until we chartered as an autonomous body.

Planting new churches isn’t only a responsibility. It’s also the most efficient strategy for reaching people— much more effective than building one large church in one location.

Think about it. What strategy does business use? Does Amway have just one giant store? Is there one Godzillasized McDonald’s? Was Starbucks’ marketing plan to build one mammoth store in Seattle? Common sense says we will reach more people through many churches scattered across a city than we will through a megachurch in one corner.

Men Start Churches

What kind of man does God use to start a church? In my experience, these traits are common to a man who effectively plants:

  1. Commitment to the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19, 20). He believes that souls can be saved anywhere. He has the Ephesians 4:11 gift of evangelism.
  2. Vision (Prov. 29:18). He envisions a church building on desert land, where others see only sagebrush. He asks God to reveal His will; he communicates his vision clearly to his people.
  3. Love for the adventure of faith (Heb. 11:3). He knows that living by faith is possible only during his short stay on earth. Admiring the Hebrews 11 heroes of faith, he is excited about trusting God alone.
  4. Optimism (1 Thess. 5:18). A church planter is a Biblical optimist. He is not a “walking minus sign.” He always sees his glass of chocolate milk half full. A church starter is not discouraged by the negatives of the first years. He trusts God to turn them into positives.
  5. Self-starting organizer. A church planter, though an evangelist, pretends that he has administrative gifts. He plans and organizes. He gets up, gets out, and put those plans to work.

You Can Start a Church

Fundamental Baptist churches are currently being planted—successfully. You can do it! In 2001 my wife and I began Press On! Ministries. We live in an RV, so we are free to move to assist church planters. We help in every aspect of starting the church and then stay for several months after its opening to support and encourage. We have had the privilege of helping these, among others:

Folsom, California—More than a Prison

When we arrived in August 2002, Derek and Robin Harm were already planting Faith Baptist Church. Thirty people were meeting in a public school. We helped them run a prospect-finding program called “The Phone’s for You.”[3] We made 22,000 calls, and 1100 people gave us permission to send them mail about the new church. Over four weeks, we sent them information and invitations, then called many of them the week before the first service as a reminder. Over 140 folks came.

Faith Baptist is now about three years old, searching for property, and averaging about 100. They still meet in the public school—but give over $12,000 a year to missions.

It Happened in Raleigh

Matt and Becky Walker invited us to join them in Cary, North Carolina early in 2003 to assist in starting College Park Baptist Church. A large group came from Fairfax (Virginia) Baptist Temple to hang 20,000 information packets on doors. Following that effort, we geared up to run the phones program.

Dr. Mike Yarborough of Bethany Hills Baptist in Raleigh graciously let us park our fifth wheel at his church and train his members to use the phones. (It’s interesting that while Pastor Yarborough helped us start a new church, his own church grew!)

After 33,000 calls and mail to 1200 prospects, we held the first service. The attendance was not as large as we had hoped, due to our mistake in planning the first service on the Easter holiday. But some did come, and we immediately started visiting our prospects. God blessed. The church grew steadily.

After a few months, College Park leased the lovely meeting place and purchased the equipment of a church that had closed. This is now a healthy, vibrant church, averaging 70–80, looking for a larger building, supporting missionaries, starting a school—and planning to plant more churches.

Happy Trails in Apple Valley

In January 2005 we moved to Apple Valley, California— known as the home of Roy Rogers—to help Bryan and Rebecca Brock plant Life Point Baptist Church. With the help of teams in three eastern states, we made about 25,000 calls. About 1700 folks asked for mail about the new church. On April 10, 135 came to the first service. Attendance is currently averaging 80–90. The Great Commission is being fulfilled as we lead folks to Christ and disciple them. A Fundamental, separated Baptist church has been planted in the high desert of southern California!

God can do it. He is doing it. As Fundamentalists see the need and our responsibility, He will use us to re-seed our country with sound churches. Healthy organisms reproduce. May our Fundamental Baptist churches always be healthy.


Dave Barba, in full-time ministry for thirty-one years, planted Falls Baptist Church (Wisconsin), Trinity Baptist Church (Tennessee), and spent nine years in itinerant evangelism. He and his wife Claudia now assist church planters in the USA through the work of Press On! Ministries (www.ipresson.com).

(Originally published in FrontLine • July/August 2005. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

  1. www.census.gov. Click on American Fact Finder. []
  2. www.bju.edu/resources/cplanting/ metro.html. []
  3. For detailed information about “The Phone’s for You,” visit our website (www. ipresson.com). []


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