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church planting


by Larry Powell, general director, Free Will Baptist Home Missions Department


YOU MAY RECOGNIZE THIS FAMILIAR slogan from Home Depot™ commercials. And it’s true! You can plant a mission church in the Rocky Mountain region or the Mid-Atlantic states if God has called you to that harvest field.

Our beloved America has many fields where the gospel has not been preached in many years. You will be successful as God anoints you to connect with families and win them to Jesus Christ.


A new church starts with vision. When you can communicate your vision for a church, you will be successful. Being self-motivated, spirit motivated, and persistent in your witness, you will connect with the lost. To win individuals and families you must build effective relationships. When you have done that, you will be effective in sharing the love of Christ. Today, our church planters are doing an exceptional job of building bridges to hurting people around them. If you can communicate a vision and develop relationships, you can plant a mission church.


Home Missionaries with determination and resilience are laying the foundation for their mission work in twenty-eight states, Canada, Mexico, and the islands. I have great admiration for our missionaries. They are self-starters with determination.

They are willing to start churches in an unfamiliar city with little or nothing. They define their goals so others can understand them, and they settle down to hard work. These husbands and wives are enabled by the Holy Spirit to gather people around them and make it happen. Our church planters are successful, and you can be successful, too! If you love people and have a passion to see them saved, you would make a great church planter. What a rewarding sight to observe our missionaries as they preach the gospel without compromise, yet with longsuffering and compassion, “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”


If God has been speaking to you about church planting in North America, I want to invite you to visit our web site, Please take a look, and get information about taking the next step. Give me a call or talk with any of the directors in our department. Accept the challenge to build the mission work God has placed on your heart. You can be a church planter with Free Will Baptist Home Missions, and we can help!

Take a few moments to read the following stories about home missionaries who have taken the challenge:



Pictured Above: The Warren and Leadbetter Families.

God began to prepare our hearts for this new ministry assignment several years ago. Through our church emphasis on missions, God gave us a burden for areas where there is little or no Christian influence. Our home church (First FWB, Russellville, AR) formed a strategic partnership with Pastor Tim Lewis and the Summit Chapel FWB Mission Church in Ogden, UT. We learned about the work and needs there and began to pray for Tim and the church. Tim attended our yearly mission conference, and we began sending mission teams on short-term trips to Ogden. In May of 2003, Scott and Staci Warren left our church and moved to help Tim in Utah.

In November of 2003, Tim and Scott invited me to come to Utah to help them organize a Sunday School ministry, conduct teacher training, and preach in the Sunday service. It was on that trip that God began to burden my heart for the people of Utah. My wife and I prayed for God’s direction, and it became increasingly clear that He was calling us to a new ministry. We received approval from the Home Mission Board to start a church in Salt Lake City, a team project with Scott and Staci Warren.

Pictured Above: The Wasatch Mountains of Utah.

Only two percent of the population of Salt Lake City claim affiliation with an evangelical church! Fifty-six percent claim affiliation with the Mormon Church, and thirty-two percent claim no church affiliation at all. The largest percentage of people in the Salt Lake metropolitan area is professionals between 18 and 44 years of age. Most are college educated and employed in some type of “white collar” job.

Our general plan is to gather, disciple, and train a core group of people who can help us establish and grow the church. We will reach out to people through need and interest-based Bible studies such as financial management, parenting, marriage enrichment, as well as personal contacts and witnessing, servant evangelism projects, etc. We will begin public services when we have enough people to provide children’s classes, music for worship, and leaders of small groups for discipleship, fellowship, and care.

Our long range vision is to see God plant a healthy, growing church in the Salt Lake Valley—a church reaching people, involved in worldwide missions, and regularly sending teams to plant new churches, especially in other needy areas of Utah.



Rochester skyline photo courtesy Rochester City Hall    

In the early seventies I remember attending a service at the Parsley Bottom Free Will Baptist Church in my home state of West Virginia. Bro. Roy Thomas was presenting the work of Home Missions. As part of his presentation, he used a map of the United States with red pins designating the location of Free Will Baptist churches. In many states, the pins were so close together they overlapped, but in the Northeast there were very few. There were no pins in the state of New York. That experience left a desire in my heart that has never diminished.

I have enjoyed a good ministry in church planting for more than thirty years, starting churches in both Ohio and Missouri. Recently, however, after much prayer and soul searching, my wife and I felt it was in God’s timing to go and plant a church in the state of New York. We have chosen the Greater Rochester metropolitan area that has a population of more than one million people. The southeastern suburb is a fast-growing area that will offer fertile ground for building a new church.

History tells us that Free Will Baptists were once influential in spreading the gospel to this area of the country. Over the years, however, this region has become barren and void of that witness. It is our desire to plant a FWB church that will be instrumental in leading people to Christ.



Over the last few months, our staff members have enjoyed attending several celebration services for churches that have reached self-supporting status. God has rewarded the efforts of men and women who have gone into cities, won people to Christ, bought land, and built beautiful facilities. It is a day of celebration for the pastor and his people when they adopt a constitution and by-laws, develop a church budget, list their charter members, and elect dedicated officers.


Sanctuaries and educational facilities are important tools in the missionaries’ hands. Church planters gain credibility and create stability through permanent facilities. Below are 13 church planters who have dedicated new facilities in recent months:

  • Jeff and Donna Crabtree, New Brunswick, Canada

  • Jim and Kim Fairchild, Cabot, AR

  • Dennis and Judy Haygood, Huntsville, AL

  • Bob and Brenda Lewis, Grand Junction, CO

  • Roger and Sandra Raper, Ft. Collins, CO

  • Jerry and Brenda Rayburn, Sierra Vista, AZ

  • John and Cheryl Reed, Green Bay, WI

  • Rue Dell and Ozella Smith, Monroe, LA

  • Eric and Tara Thompson, Bend OR

  • Ron and Janice Wallace, Fairbanks, AK

  • Allen and Nancy Whitt, Danese, WV

  • Shane and Lupita Wilson, Johnson City, TN

  • Russell and Kathy Wright, Pan Handle, WV


Several missionary church planters have purchased land and have plans to build. Paul and Patricia Collins, Harrisonburg, VA, have eight acres high on a hill overlooking the city. Paul is working on site plans with the city engineer. This mission will take off like a rocket with new facilities. I recently visited with Dr. Mark and Shelly Braisher in Overland Park, KS. Mark and his church have property located in the fastest growing area of their city. Their plans are ready and almost completely approved by city managers. Other church planters have found buildings and remodeled them.


Randy and Shelly Puckett, home missionaries to Sugar Land, TX have been searching for land for several years. Clayton and Tammy Hampton in Clarksville, TN need property. Both of these missionaries have strong mission works but cannot find good, affordable pieces of property. Ask God to provide for the needs of these churches.


May I challenge you to pray for God’s anointing on our newest efforts in North America. Pray for the following church planters who are forging new territory to tear down the barriers of darkness so that the gospel light may shine on the hearts and souls of men and women.

  • Randy and LeAnn Ledbetter/Scott and Staci Warren, Salt Lake City, UT

  • Chad and Paula Kivette, Grand Junction, CO

  • George and Kathy Lemelin, White Earth Reservation, MN

  • Dana and Betty Booth, Rochester, NY

Larry A. Powell is the general director of the Free Will Baptist National Home Missions Department in Antioch, TN. Email Larry at








©2005 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists