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shifting gears: church planting in the 21st century

by Terry Forrest

For more information about pastoral ministry studies at FWBBC, contact Terry Forrest at

"CAN WE HAVE A CHURCH PLANTING CLASS THIS FALL?" asked a pastoral ministry student at Free Will Baptist Bible College. “I would really like to take it.” Another student immediately spoke up. “Me too.” A third hit the same note. “Yes, me too!”

That conversation took place in the Introduction to Church Growth class last spring. The Church Planting class is one of those courses that is only offered “upon request.” This exciting moment culminated many months of sowing the seeds. Here is what made that moment possible.

It’s Teamwork

When I became coordinator of FWBBC’s pastoral ministry program, my first concern was to stimulate interest in church planting among pastoral training students. Trymon Messer, then director of the Home Missions Department, shared my interest and concern.

About that time, Home Missionary Cliff Donoho relocated to Middle Tennessee and began efforts to plant a new church in the Nashville area. Brother Donoho agreed to work with us as a hands-on resource person.

It’s Hard Work

Our early attempts were weak because the numbers were small, but Donoho’s contagious enthusiasm started a fire that would not go out. I encouraged a number of young men to go help in his new work.

In addition, I placed a great deal of emphasis on the two existing church growth classes required of all pastoral students. Positive things began to happen in those classes. As partial requirement for Introduction to Church Growth, students must develop a project to help their local church grow. Many of these projects have been productive.

It’s Personal Work

One of the students (a black lady in her 50s) designed an effective project. She implemented a plan to grow an adult Sunday School class in her local church. Starting with only a half-dozen students in the adult class, she planned to personally visit all the parents of the children who attended the church. By the end of the semester, the class numbered in the mid-30s, and they were contemplating a building program.

One requirement for students in the Strategies for Church Growth class is that each must witness to 10 people during the semester. The 14 students who enrolled in the class in the spring 2005 semester reported 35 people saved as a result of their efforts.

It’s God’s Work

Of course, nothing inspires us more than seeing people saved and experiencing growth in the local church. What a joy as students (and the teacher) report the results of visits made and rejoice together over those who come to repentance.

It was out of this environment that students requested that the Church Planting class be offered. College administration responded and placed it on the fall schedule. Our students are learning the means and methods to reach people and to stimulate growth in the local church. They have seen it happen, played a personal role in it, caught the vision of church growth, and now believe they can make it happen themselves.

These are exciting times at Free Will Baptist Bible College. Larry Powell, director of the Home Missions Department, has pledged his support and cooperation in cultivating the interest and skills of our students. I can hardly wait for class time tomorrow. Wish you were here!

Reverend Terry Forrest, coordinator of the pastoral ministry program at Free Will Baptist Bible College, has worked in pastoral ministry 42 years and served 15 years on the Arkansas Home Missions Board. While pastoring First FWB Church (Walnut Ridge, AR), Forrest led his congregation to “mother” a new church. He also helped organize First FWB Church in Monticello where he pastored eight years before coming to FWBBC in 1991.

To Learn more about Free Will Baptist Bible College, visit their website at



©2005 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists