Church Planting for the Great Commission


We at Bethlehem highly value the ministry of planting new churches. I serve as Pastor for Church Planting at our 150 year old church, and as Associate Professor for Church Planting at our seminary. Both the church and the school share a common vision to see new churches planted for the glory of Christ and the joy of all peoples.

Why are we so interested in church planting? It’s not because there is anything bad about old churches. Old churches, just like new churches, have their strengths and their weaknesses representing different pastoral challenges. It’s not because it’s a glamorous thing to do. Church planting is pastoral work requiring much prayer, sweat, and tears. It’s not because church planting is a convenient way to send a group of disgruntled people out of a church. To the contrary, disgruntled people don’t make for a ‘happy’ new church. Unfortunately, these are reasons some have engaged in church planting. 

To the contrary, we believe in church planting because we see it as a primary means of accomplishing Christ’s Great Commission. When Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” by “…baptizing and teaching…” he implied the planting of churches into which those new believers would be baptized, assembled together and taught everything Jesus commanded. We observe that Christ’s promise to the early church, namely, “… you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) is accomplished in the book of Acts as churches are planted in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and in the far places of the earth.

Timothy Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, penned an often-quoted endorsement of church planting in 2002: 

“The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for 1) the numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city, and 2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. Nothing else–not crusades, outreach programs, para-church ministries, growing mega-churches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes–will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting…” (Timothy Keller, “Why Plant Churches?,” Redeemer Presbyterian, 2002).

Where are the needed potential planters to be found? Across evangelical denominations and church planting organizations there is an expressed shortage of qualified church planters. Many recognize the need for a more aggressive “leadership pipeline” through which believers are taught and prepared to plant churches. 

In a very practical way, by means of the partnership between church and school, one of the things that God has entrusted us with at Bethlehem is a leadership pipeline for church planting. And what makes this especially precious is that this partnership is united by a common vision and doctrinal statement, the Bethlehem Elder Affirmation of Faith. 

Because of the partnership between seminary and church, potential church planters are being called and prepared for church planting through the Church Planting concentration in the M.Div. program, and then finalizing their preparation through the Church Planting Residency in our church. 

Please pray for three of our 2020 Seminary graduates who have come through this leadership pipeline and represent the fruit of this church-school partnership:

  • In May of 2020, Bethlehem Seminary graduate and Bethlehem Church Planting Resident Andrew Sheard and his wife, Lida, along with fellow Bethlehem Seminary graduate Elliot DeLorme and his wife, Olivia, were approved by Bethlehem elders to plant in Henniker, New Hampshire. The couples have moved to Henniker and have begun the work of core-group building and settling into the town. 
  • In June of 2020, the Bethlehem elders approved Tom Boyer, a Bethlehem Seminary graduate and Bethlehem Church Planting Resident to plant Emmaus Church in White Bear Lake, MN. God granted this new church the grace to celebrate its one year anniversary in June of 2021 in a building that God provided, strategically located in the city of White Bear Lake, MN.

Please pray that God would raise up more church planters through Bethlehem College & Seminary in partnership, joining us in spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. 

Thankful for your continued prayers and support,

Kenny Stokes
Associate Professor for Church Planting &
Member, Board of Trustees, Bethlehem College & Seminary
Pastor for Church Planting, Bethlehem Baptist Church

Prayer Requests:

  1. Pray for Andrew, Elliot, Tom, and their families as they establish and grow their plants in Henniker and White Bear Lake.
  2. Pray for the incoming classes as they prepare to move to Minnesota.
  3. Praise the Lord with us for the full funding of the 2020-2021 Serious Joy Scholarships.