Endowed position launches CBF emphasis on church starting growth_122203

Posted: 12/19/03

Endowed position launches CBF
emphasis on church starting growth

By Krista Carnet

CBF Communications

ATLANTA--Since 1999, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's church-starting ministry has helped launch 54 churches that are either holding services or are in the planning stages.

Much of the credit goes to one congregation. "Dunwoody Baptist Church in Atlanta was the visionary for church starts," explained Phil Hester, the Fellowship's associate coordinator for church starts.

In 1999, Dunwoody sold a piece of land with the intention of donating $1 million to endow the Fellowship's position of associate coordinator for church starts. Hester filled the position in 2000. Since then, he has developed partnerships with churches and individuals in 18 states and regions.

"There is a growing awareness and awakening in Cooperative Baptist Fellowship concerning the strategic importance of church planting."
—Daniel Vestal

Hester works with local coordinators of missions in larger states like Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and North Carolina. He also partners with institutions like the American Baptist National Ministries, the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.

CBF-sponsored churches are started on the basis of need, including an evaluation of whether there is a moderate evangelical church in the community, Hester explained. The next step is researching whether there are enough resources to start a church. It takes anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000 to plant a church.

The CBF and the BGCT currently are cooperating on three church starts--in San Antonio, Belton and Midlothian--in addition to others that are now up and running.

Steve Abbe, pastor of CrossRoads Fellowship, a church start in Waco, emphasized the importance of understanding the calling to start a new church.

"Not everyone is called to do this," he said. "You have to have the faith that God is going to lead you through. And you've got to be a leader. The gift of leadership is very necessary; you have to know how to resource and network."

CrossRoads Fellowship held its first service June 1 with 15 people. Nearly six months later, the church has 72 members and is preparing to baptize 15 more people. The church also is carrying on the vision for church starts by making a 10-year commitment to begin churches in Brazil.

"There is a growing awareness and awakening in Cooperative Baptist Fellowship concerning the strategic importance of church planting," said Daniel Vestal, the Fellowship's national coordinator. "There is also growing energy and enthusiasm for starting new churches, and I am grateful for the way the Spirit is moving in us and through us in the birthing of new missional churches."

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