FRESNO — The Church Planting Enterprise launches this year.
It will involve forging alliances … reaching the final frontier … transforming … and exploring new worlds.
Sound familiar? These phrases are famous lines from a famous television and movie franchise with many connections to the San Francisco Bay Area — “Star Trek,” which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with a new movie at the box office.
And which the creative strategist minds of some California Southern Baptists are piggybacking upon to stoke involvement in church planting in the Bay Area.
Apparently one can “boldly go” without having to travel very far.
“What we want to do is call attention, and activate mission — more awareness, more engagement and more church plants,” explained Linda Bergquist, church planting catalyst with the North American Mission Board. “The San Francisco Bay Area includes nine counties — three of which are less than 4 percent evangelical believers. It has 8 million people, including 500,000 South Asians and 250,000 Muslims.”
The latest big-screen installment of Star Trek — “Beyond” — is slated to be released July 8.
“How perfect a title? God can do anything beyond what we ask or imagine, as Ephesians 3:20 puts it,” said an excited Bergquist. “And ‘Boldly Go’ is such a perfect missions theme too.”
The church planting initiative borrows from the missional implications of several Star Trek motifs to focus on seven aspects of church planting, including:
• Church Planting Enterprise. Just as the Starship Enterprise boasted a crew of many backgrounds (and even species — it is science fiction, after all), so “we need all kinds of churches for all kinds of people,” Bergquist explained.
Specifically, there are 19 places that need Chinese churches, nine places that need South Asian churches, and more needs coming to the fore as people groups are mapped throughout the area.
And as NAMB offers coaching, a new way of assessing potential church planters and mentoring, there are many opportunities to expand the “crew” of church planters. San Francisco also is one of NAMB’s “Send City” targets for concentrated church planting efforts.
• Forging alliances. Over the past several years many churches from around the country have sent short-term mission teams, and supported church plants and church planters with prayer, partnership and funding. Bergquist and other church planting catalysts are asking California Southern Baptists to invest extra this year in the Bay Area as well — making the church plants there, in a sense, more indigenous.
“It feels like God’s really activating some things in the Bay Area recently; more interest and activity than I would have ever dreamed,” Bergquist said. “I hear it in my travels all over the country. It is so exciting. It is truly ‘forging alliances.’”
• The final frontier. As in people groups, not galaxies.
“Most of the world’s unreached people groups do already live in the Bay Area,” explained Howard Burkhart, another NAMB church planting catalyst. “Without going overseas — or maybe just before going overseas — here you can learn the culture, you can practice ministry among the people group you want to reach.”
One of those unreached groups will be showcased each month on the Boldly Go website — www.boldlygobayarea.com — usually in conjunction with a holiday that is celebrated by that people group during that month. Churches, groups or individuals have the opportunity for three tiers of involvement, Bergquist said: mapping of people groups, offering services of hospitality and kindness to the underserved, and making disciples among the people group.
• Transform. This is a reference to the “transformation” work of existing churches and church plants, as they reach out in their neighborhoods, schools and cities, sometimes with other partners, to do good and serve their communities.
Or, as the Trekkies would quote, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.”
• Explore new worlds. In other words, take a short-term trip: World Changers or P2 Missions Bay Area this summer. This phrase is a call for exploration of needs and, therefore, opportunities for further commitment.
• Live long and prosper is more about church growth and health than church planting — more about training, coaching and learning opportunities for existing churches.
For example, Bergquist said, “For churches that serve the poor, we might teach how to do grant-writing.”
• Make it so. As “amen” can mean, “may it be so,” this phrase focuses on prayer. The Boldly Go website will include different prayer devotionals to help guide prayer.
“Church planting requires prayer, partners, planters and finances,” Burkhart said. “Not everybody can do all things, but this initiative provides opportunities.
“Basically, we’re offering multiple on-ramps for people to engage.”