DULUTH — Fifty-two churches and missions joined the Georgia Baptist Convention in the previous church year, growing the net total to 3,587 statewide for the 2014 calendar year.
Measuring church planting activity in the Nov. 1, 2013, through Oct. 31, 2014 church year, new churches and missions started primarily in metro Atlanta but also emerged elsewhere including in communities like LaGrange, Metter, Albany, and Claxton. Perhaps more impressive is the ethnic diversity of the new churches.
While 50% of the new churches and missions were predominantly Anglo, African-American church plants accounted for 33% of the growth with 17 new works. Other ethnicities represented include Korean, Haitian, Zomi, and Arabic population segments as each started one new church or mission, while Hispanics reported three. There were two new multiethnic congregations.
Behind every statistic is a church-planting story that the Cooperative Program helped make possible.
Iglesia Bautista Emmanuel
During seminary studies in Mexico, professors challenged Neftali Coronado to go where the need is. After years of ministering across Mexico, he discovered a need in Georgia.
He came to Greensboro about 15 years ago and started a church then that grew to about 60 members. When Coronado lost sponsorship and assistance in Greensboro, Heritage Point Ministries at Marshall Memorial Baptist Church in Eatonton offered him a building. Iglesia Bautista El Buen Pastor (“The Good Shepherd Baptist Church”) emerged not just to serve Hispanics in Eatonton, but also as a launching point for more Hispanic church plants.
In January 2012, Coronado started Iglesia Bautista Emmanuel (“Emmanuel Baptist Church”) in an Athens parking lot with six to eight people who hosted a small block party. Today, they rent space on Sunday from a Seventh Day Adventist Church and host about 58 people in worship. Coronado said the church is self-sustaining and has developed about eight leaders.
After Emmanuel reached 40 members, Coronado determined that the Athens area needed five more Hispanic churches. A Hispanic community exists 15 minutes away in Hull. Partnering with Hull Baptist Church, Coronado started another mission in Nov. 2014.
He preaches in Eatonton on Sunday mornings, in Athens on Sunday afternoons, and in Hull on Saturday evenings.
Garden of Grace Christian Community
In southwest Atlanta, Jesse Hutchinson finds many people in the community who have heard the Gospel, but they haven’t received the Gospel.
“They aren’t walking in a relationship with God,” Hutchinson said, who like most church planters, brought his own creative touch to the process.
“I wanted to plant a church to do something a little different,” Hutchinson said. “We’re in a warehouse.”
That warehouse space is now a sanctuary in which Garden of Grace Christian Community held its official launch Jan. 25 with 45 in attendance after meeting in Hutchinson’s home for much of 2014. Two people made professions of faith at the launch.
While the venue is different from most churches, Hutchinson said the real difference is “that we are part of a community and in the community.”
He lives two minutes from the church.
“As a pastor, I have to be accountable to every person in this church,” he said.
One of Georgia’s most affluent areas – Midtown Atlanta – is also one of its most challenging missions fields. Church planter Matt Dye doesn’t find negativity or hostility toward the Gospel or M28 Church. Instead, he meets indifference.
While growth has been challenging as they now average about 52 in Sunday morning worship, he is seeing breakthroughs in people’s lives. Many attendees previously identified loosely with a church tradition. For one particular couple, the husband was a liberal Presbyterian.
“We’ve never been around people whose faith informs everything they do,” the couple recently said to Dye. Now, that couple attends a missional community (small group).
Dye challenges the M28 missional communities throughout Midtown to reach the residents in the buildings where they live and meet for small groups. The oldest couple in the church are in their sixties. They just moved from Mableton to a Midtown high-rise condominium. They want to reach their building for Christ, which represents M28’s urban church planting multiplication strategy.