Bicentennial: Alabama Baptist church planting journey gains strength

Man rejoices after being baptized outside at church plant

In 2018, Lamar Duke pulled together a report he’d been asked to compile, and when he finished it, he sat at his desk and wept.

The numbers showed that in the five years prior, Alabama Baptists had planted 85 churches, representing 785 people who had been baptized.

Those churches were “reaching the unchurched,” said Duke, then-church planting strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. “I tell people all over Alabama that if we have one church that can baptize 30 a year for the next five years, that’s significant. But if that church can also plant churches that do the same thing, how many more people will come to know Jesus that way?”

Finding the answer to that question was the goal for Duke, who died in 2020 after a battle with cancer, and it remains the goal for Rick Barnhart, who directs the SBOM office that includes church planting work.

“If we’re going to reach Alabama, we’re falling behind,” Barnhart said, noting that the state needs many more churches just to keep up with the population growth. “We have to plant new churches if we’re really going to make a difference here.”

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