Easter, of course, is about new beginnings. Those of us who know the risen Savior find in Easter new hope, new life, new power, a new covenant, new perspective, and more. Even for those who don’t yet know Jesus, Easter often means new clothes, new plantings, and new spring projects. But just after Easter a few years ago, it was the idea of beginning a new church in our community that brought my wife, Beth, and I together in prayer with three other couples.
Praying was all we knew to do at first. But soon all kinds of new thoughts and ideas started flowing. We began talking about who in our community didn’t know Christ or didn’t attend church, and why. We talked about the spiritual and physical needs we sensed those people had, and how a new church could help address them. We talked about what events we could host, and where we could meet, and how we could invite people to a new beginning.
Over the next several months, we had lots of new beginnings. We began three new Bible studies in our homes. We began a rental contract with a grade school. We began buying sound equipment, and children’s ministry supplies, and everything we could imagine that a portable church might need. We began developing a constitution, and a logo, and mailers, ads, and door hangers.
And we began surveying our community for feedback on a name for our community’s new church. Together, we chose the name New Hope.
That first year flew by quickly, and as it did, the Lord gathered about 40 people into our core group. Not surprisingly, we chose Easter Sunday one year later as the launch date for our new church. A hundred and eighty-two people responded to our invitations to come to a new beginning that Easter, and found New Hope, in more ways than one.
Looking back, more than a new church began that Easter. For me, it was the beginning of a firsthand understanding that new churches reach new people in ways that existing churches don’t. We were meeting in schools and homes, and baptizing in swimming pools, and making disciples of people who hadn’t been to church in years. It was the most challenging and most rewarding church experience of my life. And it convinced me forever that church planting is essential to go where lost people live, and to reach people that are “lost in the cracks” between existing churches.
New Hope had only been around a couple of years when the North American Mission Board called and asked if I would bring my communications and management background to help start hundreds of new churches each year. I’m not sure I can think of anything else the Lord could have used to lead me away from that new church, but that did it. We moved our family to Georgia, and spent almost a decade encouraging others to live a life that’s on mission, and to start new churches.
And now here we are in Illinois, and it’s just after Easter, again. There are 10 counties in Illinois that still have no Southern Baptist church, and another 12 that have only one. There are at least 200 places in Illinois that need a new church now—most of them in communities where there’s no evangelical church of any kind.
Easter is still about new beginnings, and in many ways the most-needed new beginnings in our state are the planting of new churches that will reach new people, and bring them new hope. I’m praying that there are still clusters of families out there, willing to start praying after this Easter, about what might be possible by next Easter.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.