The Iowa-Missouri Conference is home to several large urban centers, with nearly 3 million people living in the St. Louis area, more than 2 million in the Kansas City area, nearly 1 million in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area, and over 600,000 in the Des Moines area. Recognizing the vastness of these mission fields right in their own territory, the conference has determined to make large city evangelism a major focus during these next five years.
Last fall, the conference conducted a conference-wide evangelistic campaign in partnership with The Voice of Prophecy that resulted in over 100 new memberships by the end of the series, with approximately 120 more attendees involved in follow up studies. There are plans to conduct similar campaigns annually or semi-annually on an ongoing basis.
The conference also sponsors a Magabook program each summer, in which elementary and high school students raise money for their tuition while reaching their cities as literature evangelists.
One of the ways the Iowa-Missouri Conference hopes to be the most successful in reaching their large cities, however, is by partnering with other conferences whose territories align or overlap.
In St. Louis, for example, there are four local conferences, in two unions—the Central States and Iowa-Missouri conferences in the Mid-America Union, and the Illinois and Lake Region conferences in the Lake Union. For a few years now, all four of these conferences have been collaborating to reach their communities through establishing church plants.
St. Louis SEEDS
In partnership with the North American Division Evangelism Institute, yearly gatherings, called SEEDS conferences, equip local lay leaders with all the tools and resources they need to begin a church plant.
During this year’s SEEDS conference, held in January, Ishmael Ikpeama and Norman Njihi gave a report from the Urumuri group. They have 50-75 people regularly attending and have had 18 baptisms since they started two years ago.
One of their members, a young man named Antoine, came to America as a refugee when he was 12 and shortly thereafter fell into the wrong crowd. After losing a friend to gang violence, Antoine sought out God and found Him at the Urumuri group. He now wants to be a pastor and is looking for sponsors to help him attend a two-year training program for working with refugees.
David Klinedinst, resident evangelist to St. Louis for the Iowa-Missouri Conference, spoke about a home-based church plant in Wentzville, the fastest growing area in the St. Louis metro. A couple years ago, Warren and Naomi Beem decided to invite their children’s friends over on Friday nights for fellowship and Bible study. They now have approximately 25 unchurched high school and college aged young people coming every week.
One of the speakers for this year’s event was Jose Cortez, Jr., associate ministerial director for evangelism for the North American Division. He praised the successful collaboration in St. Louis between churches across conference and union boundaries that has resulted in five new church plants across the metro since 2012. He also challenged attendees to strive for more. Speaking about Plant1000, an NAD initiative to plant 1,000 new churches throughout North America by 2020, Cortez said that for maximum effectiveness there needs to be an Adventist church for every 25,000 people in a community. “We plant churches because we want to make sure the gospel message is accessible to anyone, in every corner of every city in North America,” he said. “If we don’t plant churches, we will become a cul-de-sac on the Adventist highway.”
In order to accomplish such a goal, there would need to be 112 Adventist churches available to the nearly 3 million people living in the St. Louis metro area. Including existing church plants, there are currently 20.
Cortez was quick to emphasize quality over quantity, however. “We don’t just want churches; we want community churches,” he said. “We’re not planting worship services and then going away. We want churches that will bless the people in their communities with the love of God and the compassion of Jesus, in practical ways, on a regular basis, and that also happen to worship on Sabbath.”
To meet an intermediate goal of doubling the number of churches in St. Louis, specific unentered areas of the metro have been identified for potential church plants and area leaders are looking for volunteers interested in partnering with them. For more information, contact David Klinedinst at 402.304.5603.
After seeing how successful SEEDS has been in getting local conferences together for outreach in St. Louis, Iowa-Missouri Conference leadership decided to try something similar in Kansas City.
The conference reached out to It Is Written and the other two local conferences in the Kansas City area—Central States and Kansas Nebraska—and plans were developed for a year-long evangelistic campaign that will culminate in a four-week evangelistic series in April 2018, with It Is Written speaker/director John Bradshaw.
In January representatives from It Is Written met with the area’s approximately 22 churches—including 10 congregations from Iowa-Missouri—to get acquainted, explain plans and answer questions.
During the next year, Bible workers from all three conferences will coordinate with It Is Written to train members for outreach and giving Bible studies. Various methods will be utilized to engage the public in preparation for the April 2018 series.
To celebrate the launch of Reach KC, approximately 1,100 church members from across Kansas City gathered in February for a joint rally.
All three conferences are encouraging members to get involved. Members of the Iowa-Missouri Conference interested in participating in Reach KC may contact the conference office at 515.223.1197.