Need to Revitalize Your Church? Focus on This

We Are a Sending Story—and So Are You

About a decade ago, we at the Summit adopted an audacious goal. We said we wanted to plant 1,000 churches by 2050. The number itself was a mix between a hunch and a Spirit-led ambition, something I said impromptu in a sermon in the spirit of William Carey’s “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” By God’s grace, we have seen this vision begin to catch. To date, we have sent out 470 people to live long-term overseas, and we have planted 208 churches, both in the U.S. and around the world.

I have come to see that this goal was planted in our DNA from day one.

You see, I had Sam James back to speak to our church a few years ago, and he told me that the sermon he preached to launch our church was none other than William Carey’s famous missionary text, Isaiah 54:2-3:

“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities” (NIV).

Carey used that text more than 300 years ago to remind churches in England that with the blessing of the gospel came the responsibility to take it to others. Sam had told that new congregation the same thing. Our church was literally founded with missions in mind.

As Sam stood before our congregation In 2012 to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of our “re-launch” as The Summit Church, most people in our church had never heard of him. He stood on our stage with tears in his eyes, and with a tremble in his voice, he said, “Honestly, I thought the vision God had given me of starting a church that sent missionaries to the nations had failed. But seeing you here today, and hearing about how God is now using you among the nations, is enough to make an old man’s dream come true.”

That weekend our church realized a profound truth: God founded us with sending in mind. And he founded yours on the same bedrock of missions, but in an even more profound way. Jesus told the first church planters in Matthew 16:18: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” Peel back the layers on just about any church plant (and every church had to be planted at some point!), and you’ll find a group of people who believe Matthew 16:18 and are acting on it. God never intends the churches he plants to become gospel reservoirs but gospel rivers. Every church is called to be involved in planting domestically and overseas.

From Every Church to Every Nation

Most of the churches in the New Testament were smaller, but the impact they made for the Great Commission was nothing short of miraculous. I see many parallels among the numerous smaller churches in the SBC today, whose members are making an enormous impact for the gospel. If we’re going to make a dent in global lostness today, then church planting and church revitalization need to come from every church to every nation.

Looking at the way that church planting in the SBC has increased in the past few years, I truly believe that we are on the cusp of seeing God do something remarkable. With personal evangelism as our fuel and church planting as our vehicle, God’s mission stands poised to impact every city in our nation and every country in the world. Just think:

What would it look like if every Southern Baptist church committed to help in the planting or revitalizing of just one domestic church next year?

And what if every one of our churches got involved reaching one unreached or underserved people group overseas?

Truly, the gates of hell would not stand a chance. I truly believe that the greatest movement of God in the SBC lies not in our past but in our future. Throughout Scripture, we see that “past graces” are evidences that God wants to bestow future graces. There can be no doubt that the SBC experienced some unusual grace in the Conservative Resurgence. Why would the Holy Spirit have done that if it were not to give us an unprecedented effectiveness among the nations? God does what he does not to preserve institutions but for the sake of the Great Commission. It’s all about the Great Commission. That means the best days of the SBC are ahead us. They have to be! There are still more than 6,000 unreached people groups in the world, and history cannot end until they have been given a gospel witness. It is our moment to expect great things of God and then attempt great things for God.

This article originally appeared here.

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J. D. Greear
J.D. Greear, Ph.D., pastors the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Tagged by Outreach magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in America, the Summit has grown in the past 8 years from 400 to over 5,000 each weekend. The Summit Church is deeply involved in global church planting, having undertaken the mission to plant 1000 churches in the next 40 years. J.D. has authored Breaking the Islam Code and the upcoming Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.