By LINDA M. LINONIS
The faith of the Rev. Gary L. Frost was instilled and nurtured at Jerusalem Baptist Church.
“I came to know Jesus Christ as a youngster,” the Rev. Mr. Frost said of his belief developed at the church. “I came to realize there is a difference between being a church member and a follower of Christ.”
His desire to guide others toward that relationship with Jesus is a focal point of his new ministry. He is the new vice president, Midwest Region and Prayer of the North America Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“My role is to plant churches and direct evangelism and prayer in the United States and Canada,” he said. It is the Send North America Initiative.
Specifically, Mr. Frost will work to develop strategies and church plants and prayer in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis, Detroit, Chicago, Kansas City and St. Louis.
Mr. Frost said an advantage of his new position is being able to return to Youngstown and family. “I will be doing quite a bit of traveling so a requirement was a place with an airport,” he said, adding it was a bonus to come home. He served as pastor for 18 years at Rising Star Baptist Church.
Mr. Frost said the SBC initiative will address the issue of “underchurched areas.” “We’ll work with churches and pastors and plant churches in strategic areas where they are relevant and culturally sensitive.”
The mission is three-fold — to discover, develop and deploy. “Southern Baptist Convention will supply the resources and finances,” he said.
Additionally, the effort will “revitalize” existing churches by “replenishing and redeveloping their mission in communities,” Mr. Frost said.
Among goals are 15 church plants in Cleveland and 20 each in Cincinnati and Columbus. He is working in cities with populations of one million or more.
Mr. Frost addressed general criticism about founding new churches when some established ones are floundering. “New churches have been proven to be most effective in evangelism,” he said. He added the SBC isn’t abandoning established churches because revitalization help will be available to them. “We believe existing churches fulfill the great commission,” he said.
Mr. Frost said the goal of evangelism “is to bring a person into a personal relationship with Jesus.” To achieve that, he continued, a believer “must be born again and develop a personal relationship with Jesus to attain eternal life.”
He added that the SBC has a “kingdom-oriented perspective.”
The minister also noted the effort isn’t about swapping members from one church to another. “It is focusing on the unchurched,” he said, adding it is reaching out to non church-goers through small Bible study groups. He continued that starting out with a large membership wasn’t a priority. Members will come out of the “community relevance of the churches,” he said.
The SBS plan is ambitious – to plant 10,000 churches by 2020. Currently, the SBC counts 45,000 churches in the United States and Canada.