Eight months ago, New Orleans church planting missionary Justin Haynes had no idea what Feb. 12-18, 2017, would have in store for him and his family. As far as he knew, the week he would be featured on the North American Mission Board’s prayer calendar would be an ordinary week of sharing Christ, preparing sermons and working extra hours at a second job.
Yet it was anything but ordinary.
“The very week that the focus was on me and our church, I was diagnosed with lymphoma and had surgery,” Haynes said. “But we got around 100 cards from people that week who were praying for us. To me, the prayer calendar was amazing.”
Haynes said the extra prayers helped him and his family understand that they weren’t alone in this battle. Haynes’ medical prognosis is good. He expects a full recovery and will continue to lead Refuge Church NOLA.
“In that time, there was a bit of anxiety and fear circling through our minds,” Haynes said. “To be able to bring in all of these cards and read them to my wife and children and let them see that all these people are praying for us was very encouraging.”
NAMB hopes to multiply that kind of prayer impact in the coming months through a new “Pray for Planters” initiative, aiming to mobilize 10,000 Southern Baptist churches to pray regularly for church plants throughout North America.
“Every church, no matter the size, can pray,” NAMB president Kevin Ezell said. “Nothing means more to a missionary than to know that believers are praying for them, for their families and for their ministry.”
By visiting the prayforplanters.com website, pastors and church leaders can choose either a city, state or college campus. After providing some basic information, NAMB will email a list of missionaries for whom the church can pray. Churches also will receive periodic updates about how God is moving in their chosen area. Individuals, meanwhile, can make prayer commitments using the same website.
In the process of praying, NAMB hopes more churches will become involved in church planting.
“We currently have more than 3,800 churches involved in church planting as a supporting or sending Church,” said William Brown, supporting church coordinator at NAMB. “It is our desire to provide a clear, simple first step for churches that want to get involved in church planting but may have thought they didn’t have enough people or enough resources.”
NAMB will send churches specific information about how to pray for the list of missionaries they have received. All of the missionaries whose names will be sent to churches are a part of NAMB’s church planter care ministry, have affirmed the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and are committed to give to the Cooperative Program. The church planters may or may not be funded by NAMB.
“This is an opportunity for churches to be a part of a great movement of God in North America,” Brown said. “As church planters engage the lost in cities and neighborhoods without a previous Gospel witness, they’re reaching communities Southern Baptists have not historically been able to penetrate.
“These guys on the front lines are seeing great fruit from the work as God moves to save people,” Brown said. “We hope and pray that Southern Baptists will want to jump in and support this great movement of God in North America through prayer.”
For more information about this ministry and to enroll your church, visit prayforplanters.com. For a video on the prayer initiative featuring Ezel, click here. More information about Justin Haynes and the Refuge Church NOLA in New Orleans is available at refugechurchnola.com.
— Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.