Browning: From Barnwell to Los Angeles

For Barnwell native Will Browning, the relocation of him and his family to Los Angeles, Calif., is more than just a move — it is like moving to another country.

Browning grew up working on the family farm, moved to Statesboro, Ga., to attend Georgia Southern University, and met his future wife, Tarah, from Miami, Fla. They were married in October 1999 and began an adventure that has led them to what he calls “one of the world’s most influential cities.”

He is the chief church-planting strategist for Los Angeles and serves as a Send City Missionary for the North American Mission Board. After planting Journey Church in Ladson (Charleston area), he saw the church grow over the next 13 years and 10 months into a church-planting church with a weekly attendance approaching 1,000. Thus far, Journey Church has planted nine other churches and trained many church planters through its church-planting center and residency program.

While attending Northpoint Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., Browning says the Lord impressed on his heart a message: “I want you to spend the rest of your life seeing your generation come to worship Me.”

One of his guiding principles has been “attempting something so great with my life that it is doomed for failure unless God is in it!”

Recently, NAMB President Kevin Ezell spoke at Taylors First Baptist Church’s Reach Day. Using the church at Antioch in the Book of Acts as an example of living on mission, he said, “They sent them away. As you go, we go. As Will goes, you go. The church at Antioch sent its best, and South Carolina is sending its best.

“God often calls us to do things greater than our ability to accomplish them,” Ezell added. “Will, you must be completely obedient, completely dependent, and completely flexible as you go. There will be challenges from the outside and the inside, but you must stay faithful and focused to the finish.”

As he spoke to the church, Browning said, “NAMB is the leading church-planting mission in North America. I think it is the most powerful church-planting organization on the planet!”

He referenced a statement from church growth specialist Peter Wagner that stated, “The single greatest tool we have for evangelism is church planting.”

Los Angeles, which means “City of Angels,” has a population of 3.8 million and is larger than 21 states. Greater Los Angeles, in the Send City context, has a population of nearly 20 million. The region consists of 100 cities among 400 diverse people groups. There is one Southern Baptist for every 17,570 people. The estimated evangelical presence is 8.3 percent of the population.

South Carolina Baptist Convention Executive Director-Treasurer Gary Hollingsworth led the church in prayer. He said to the congregation, sitting in the massive auditorium, “What we have today is a powerful portrait of partnership.”

Taylors First has signed on as a lead partner for the church-planting ministry in Los Angeles. Pastor Josh Powell stated that the church is involved also with church-planting efforts in Boston and Salt Lake City.

Los Angeles requires a unique focus for church planting that focuses on universities, inner cities, beach cities, people groups, and Hollywood. Browning’s job as a strategist for the region will be to recruit and train church planters. “We need friends in South Carolina who are willing to hold the rope for us. Our church planters are missionaries,” he said.

The ministry journey from rural Barnwell to metropolitan Los Angeles is a stark contrast in both size and culture. Browning is suited for the challenge, having devoted his life to church planting. He received his M.Div. degree in Evangelism and Church Growth with an emphasis in Church Planting from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and his D.Min. degree in Great Commission Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Using that educational foundation, he spent nearly 14 years planting a church that focused on planting other churches.

Taylors First is one of the chief supporters of Browning’s work in L.A. Their support will include prayer, training, giving, and going periodically to the area to assist in the work.

Browning and his wife have a daughter in nursing school, a son in the Marine Corps, and a son in high school.