Published Feb 27, 2018
FRESNO — Ross Shepherd, the recently elected as leader of the California Southern Baptist Convention church planting initiatives team, longs to see a Southern Baptist presence in every California community.
And he is already working to make it happen.
“I’ve always had a vision for the state of California,” Shepherd said. “We have 40 million people here, and more than 90 percent of those people are lost. That’s an alarming statistic. I’d like to be able to break it down strategically and look at where we still have to get a Southern Baptist footprint. I have a desire to see a healthy, successful church plant in every
city in California. That’s the ultimate goal.”
Shepherd and his team are working in close cooperation with area directors of missions and North American Mission Board church planting catalysts to provide resources and support for church planting efforts across the state.
“I recruit, mentor and coach church planters,” Shepherd said. “I work with our directors of missions. I work with church planting catalysts to get churches planted in areas where there is a need. My team helps church planters with funding.
“Basically, we do all things church planting!”
Shepherd said he views church planting as his calling. In his decades of ministry, he has participated in church planting initiatives in several regions within the United States, as well as in numerous nations around the world, including Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Cuba.
Church planting is rewarding, but it is not always easy, Shepherd said. He believes his extensive experience in the field has equipped him to tackle the challenges he will inevitably face in his role as a CSBC team leader.
“Church planting has pretty much been my whole life,” Shepherd ex-
plained. “So I think being able to plant in small towns in Montana and in big cities like Los Angeles through the years, as well experiencing the ups and downs and the ins and outs (of church planting), has prepared me for this position.”
Shepherd said his passion for church planting is another reason he is a good fit for the post.
“Having a passion and a heart and a vision for the state and a desire to plant as many churches as we can, that is key,” Shepherd said.
Though he is primarily focused on planting churches within California, Shepherd said his vision extends far beyond state lines.
“My goal is to create a church planting movement,” he explained, “that through prayer and some initiatives, the Spirit of God would move California to start churches and raise up pastors, and that that would spread across the nation.”
For the movement to take hold, though, Shepherd said Southern Baptist entities at all levels and of all sizes need to work together.
“I think everyone would love to see that end result, but the challenge will be pulling everyone together and cooperating with a sense of unity that we’ve probably never seen before,” Shepherd said. “Everyone from the state offices to NAMB to the smallest churches will need to work together on this.”
Getting people to buy into his vision is another challenge, he said, because churches do not always prioritize church planting.
“Churches do a lot of things (besides church planting),” Shepherd noted. “A lot of the churches are probably more in need of revitalization. So if they’re smaller and they’re struggling, most of them aren’t going to seek to plant a church.”
But despite the obstacles, Shepherd believes church planting is the key to reaching the people of California for Christ. And he is excited to be part of the movement.
“Statistically, many more people are saved through church plants than existing churches,” Shepherd said. “I think the most strategic way to reach people, both here in North America and around the world, is through the local church.”