Life Down on the Farm

I grew up on the farm. Recently I have returned to some of my farming roots by buying a couple of heifers for my daughter to show.

But there is a different type of farm. One that doesn’t have cows and horses. In baseball its called the farm-system. Its where minor league baseball players try to develop their skills  in order to become major league baseball players. This Sunday at our church we have a guest speaker who has spent his fair share of time down on the farm in the Mariners minor league system.

Now, however, I am hearing about a different kind of farm. A farm-system for church planters and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s time to train future church planters so that in the coming days we can pick from the cream of the crop to start the churches that will win our nation to Christ. I have been saying for sometime that we need to recruit the very best to plant future churches. The great need, the heavy investment, and the difficult nature of church planting demands our very best and brightest.

Below is an excerpt from the NAMB website regarding this new kind of farm!

NAMB Farm System

To start re-gaining the ground we have lost over the decades in SBC church-to-population ratios, NAMB has set a net-gain goal of 5,000 SBC congregations by the year 2022. If we do that, it will be the best year Southern Baptists have had in North America in more than a century.

If we are to accomplish this goal, we must start 1,350 new congregations each year—that’s 13,500 churches in a decade. This is just to stay ahead of the number of churches we lose each year and to keep gaining ground on North America’s growing population.

But who is going to start all of those churches? You don’t have to be real good with math to know that if we need 1,350 new churches each year, we are going to need 1,350 church planters every year as well.

I believe that in order to plant 1,350 healthy churches annually, we need to start investing right now in an intentional, church-based “farm system” to train young missionaries who will someday become new church planters. Just like major league baseball’s farm system helps pro baseball players develop and sharpen their skills, this farm system will prepare our next generation of missionaries for the front lines of the mission field.

This next generation of missionaries will advance through three categories:

Student Missionary — These are students in their junior or senior years of college or attending seminary who believe God is calling them to vocational ministry. They will serve for a semester in church plants, local churches or in another SBC ministry and be trained by those who are already doing the work.

Interns — These are those who believe God is calling them to church planting, and they will serve in local church settings. We will be careful to place these young people in churches that are actively involved in planting new churches so they can be prepared for future church planting roles.

Apprentices — This category is for men who’ve been called to plant a church. These men will serve for up to a year in the church planting context under the guidance of an experienced church planter. Because the greatest need for churches in North America primarily lies in areas outside the South, church planting apprentices will serve in the West, Northeast, Midwest or Canada.

Of course, in order to end up with 1,350 new church planters every year, we will need to start with much more than that number of student missionaries and interns. It is to be expected that some will pursue callings other than church planting.

In my next post, I will discuss just what kind of financial commitment it will take from Southern Baptists in order to get this missionary farm system going. And in a later post, I will also discuss the important role churches must play in making it a success.

In the meantime, let’s all be praying for our next generation of missionaries, asking God what role He would have us play in the process.

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