Published March 20, 2018
PINEVILLE—A Baptist college could hold the key to increasing the number of churches in Kentucky's mountain region to serve an estimated 350,000 people who currently aren't a part of any Christian congregation.
Clear Creek Baptist Bible College has developed an initiative in response to the Kentucky Baptist Convention's "Multiply Eastern Kentucky" church planting emphasis.
The Clear Creek program, which begins with the fall semester, provides three years of traditional courses followed by a year of supervised field work alongside active church planters.
Shannon Benefiel, Clear Creek's dean of institutional advancement, said the "3+1 Church Plant Initiative" not only prepares students to plant churches, but it provides additional manpower to existing church plants via student interns and promotes revitalization in churches near the campus.
"It's a win, win, win, situation," Benefiel said. "This helps the students, helps the church plants and helps the communities."
"If you want to plant churches in eastern Kentucky, why not train them in eastern Kentucky?" Benefiel said. "This program will give students called to church planting needed experience and training in the classroom and in the field. They would be prepared to go immediately into a church planting ministry when they finish."
Todd Gray, evangelism team leader for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said roughly only 10 percent of eastern Kentucky's population currently is in church on Sunday mornings.
"There are only 250 Southern Baptist churches which is half the number of churches in the West Region of Kentucky where about 20 percent of the population attends church," Gray said. "We need more churches in eastern Kentucky and the 3+1 Church Planter Initiative is an important part of that effort. This training effort is designed to not only equip church planters with their biblical and theological needs but also to teach them church planting skills taught by seasoned church planting practitioners."
Gray said he thinks the Clear Creek initiative has the potential to strengthen the church planting culture throughout Kentucky and beyond.
"When an institution with the credibility of Clear Creek moves to train church planters, they are believing that God is calling leaders to plant churches and those who are called need to be trained," Gray said. "I believe their effort will make a difference because it helps legitimize church planting as a viable ministry calling.
"With Clear Creek jumping on board to train these leaders they are saying they believe in church planting. Their voice carries a lot of weight in their region," he added. (KT)
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