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“Cleveland needs people who love Jesus,” said Dan Ghramm, a North American Mission Board church planter in West Cleveland. Among the 65,000 people in the area where he works, Ghramm says there are “less than 300 to 400 people in a Gospel-preaching church on Sunday morning.”

The numbers don’t get better in other places in metro Cleveland. Forty-two percent of Clevelanders aren’t affiliated with a religious body — Christian or otherwise. Only 5.5 percent are in evangelical churches, compared to almost 40 percent in the state of Mississippi.

Despite the fact that Southern Baptists have been involved in Cleveland since the 1950s, there are only eight Southern Baptist churches within the city limits — or one SBC church for every 53,000 people. Five of those churches are less than five years old. Include the population and churches for all of Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties, and that’s one SBC church for every 42,500 people. 

Southern Baptists in Cleveland and throughout North America are working together to change that through Send North America: Cleveland — an effort to reach the metro area by connecting church planters with established churches in other parts of the nation.

Send North America is the North American Mission Board’s national strategy to mobilize and assist individuals and churches to get involved in hands-on church planting in 29 major cities and other areas throughout the continent. Through Send North America, NAMB will come alongside Southern Baptist churches that are not directly involved in church planting and help connect them to a church plant. And NAMB will partner with Southern Baptist churches already planting churches to help them increase their efforts.

Kevin Litchfield, Send North America: Cleveland’s city coordinator, sees Southern Baptists in the city at the front end of something big.

“I’ve never seen this much God-activity in our area,” said Litchfield, who also serves as a church planting catalyst for Cleveland Hope, the local Baptist association in Cleveland. “This time last year we had two church planters in the pipeline. If we really went at it, we could have 20 right now. We could potentially see 15 to 20 churches planted next year.”

When Litchfield first came to the association in 2006, less than 2 percent of the association’s budget was going toward church planting; today, it’s nearly half (47 percent).

That kind of progress will be required to meet the goals that the Cleveland strategy group has established for the city: starting 100 churches over the next five years and 256 by the year 2020.  via Baptist Press – Cleveland could see 100 new churches in 5 yrs. – News with a Christian Perspective.

Want to get the first-hand look inside story of a church that started with just a handful of people and has surged to over 120,000 followers of Jesus gathering in 950 churches in India?  Rob and Michelle Wegner have an experience that they share in a new book called “Share the Well”. “It’s something we call Bore Well Church Planting. The concept is simple: plant a church in an otherwise unreached village and then equip and empower that church to become the hub for community development, bringing living water to every area of life. Because if the Kingdom of God comes to a community, it will elevate every single domain of society – health, education, housing, employment, justice, arts, family life and more.” Share the Well goes in-depth into the story of Granger Community Church’s model of church planting, missional coaching and community transformation. It sounds like a great read.  I’m ordering my copy today. And all proceeds… every single penny, goes directly to further the ministry in India. You can check it out and order YOUR copy here. Or read more about it here. via Mark Beeson: “Share the Well” Books.

Current Events
Many of my friends are planning on hanging out at the Velocity Conference, coming up later this month near Atlanta.  I hope you’ll consider attending. Speakers include Chris Hodges, JD Greear, Alan Hirsh, Pete Wilson, Matt Carter, Larry Osborne, Brian Bloye, Tony Morgan, Shawn Lovejoy and more! This year’s topic:  “The New Pace of Church Planting”. And for a two day conference:  $99 bucks is a STEAL! You can register here. Todd

Many of you know Charles Hill.  He’s one of the guys behind THE STICKS conferences.  Charles and his family recently moved to Utah to plant a church in a very difficult area of the country.  Little did Charles know that he would soon find his church plant cut off from funding… all over a beer. Here’s part of an article from The Christian Post: Very few things take church planter Charles Hill by surprise. But when a group that agreed to support his new ministry work in the middle of a predominantly Mormon community suddenly pulled its financial backing and gave him the boot, he was totally caught off guard. Hill had just begun to host Bible studies and reach out to the unchurched and those who were seeking something outside of the dominant religious preference in Utah – where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is headquartered – when he got fired. He was allegedly let go because he drank half a beer in public during the new “Beer and Bible” meeting he started last month. While he was told that was the main issue, he doesn’t have all the details because he didn’t receive a phone call or e-mail from the decision makers, he said. His boss, whom he respects and who had given him permission to conduct “Beer and Bible,” broke the news to him a couple of weeks ago. He now has less than 60 days before he and his family – wife and three kids – are cut off from all funding and left “abandoned,” as he put it. “It’s troubling,” Hill told The Christian Post. “We’re out here trying to reach people as Jesus would. “It’s still baffling to me that when your boss has given you permission that you can still get terminated for something such as that.” Hill moved out to South Jordan, Utah, last year, leaving a growing church he founded in Ohio to answer God’s calling in what he says is the most unchurched state in the country. He gained financial support from a denomination – which he declined to name in order to keep things as respectful as he can – after being drawn to and recruited by a dynamic church planter (his boss) in the church body. In a city where around seven or eight out of 10 people are Mormon, Hill said he prayed a lot and battled with how he was going to reach people. He determined that bars and coffee shops were the few places that he would be able to meet with unchurched and non-LDS folks. He knew that starting a Bible study in a bar could potentially be an issue with the denomination, so he asked for permission from his boss. He was given the green light. But once word about the “Beer and Bible” meeting spread and reached the upper leadership at the denomination, the 36-year-old church planter was cut from the $280,000 support he was being given for his outreach and ministry efforts. He was only five months away from a church launch in a region where not one non-LDS church exists in 25 cities. One of the leaders, who wished to remain anonymous, in the denomination released a brief statement to The Christian Post on Monday, saying: “It’s not an issue of immorality or improper biblical behavior. We simply discovered there were instances in which we were not able to reconcile our differences as it concerns general Baptist principles.” Hill, whose father was an alcoholic, said he doesn’t even like drinking and isn’t much of a drinker at all. Though he doesn’t believe it’s a sin, one of the biggest reasons he hasn’t drank alcohol is because as a senior pastor, he didn’t want younger believers to stumble and drink too much. You can read more here… Here’s a video for Beer and Bible: I got to talk with Charles briefly at Exponential last week.  He was truly discouraged, but knows that God is up to something.  Take a moment to read his response here. Here’s what I learned (at least Charles’ side of the story): 1.  He asked for permission before starting the ‘beer and bible’ thing. 2.  He was given permission 3.  He was shortly thereafter told that the group sponsoring him was cutting ties (and funding) 4.  Charles is pretty much in the middle of Utah with no funding just months away from launching services. 5.  Charles has not heard directly from the group that was sponsoring him (other than they wouldn’t be sponsoring him anymore).  There seem to be no open lines of communication at this time.  Charles has apologized (which I don’t think he really needed to do since he asked permission) and even told the group he would not drink again.  No response. Regardless of your view on alchohol, this is not a good situation for Charles and his family.  They are trying to reach an area of the country that does not have one evangelical church (but tons of LDS churches).  And they have lost $280k in funding (that’s about 95% of their funding). If you can help, please contact Charles at his website (linked to above). Todd