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.