Todd Brady knows firsthand the impact of the cooperative work of North Carolina Baptists.
Nearly two decades ago when God led him to start a church in the growing city of Fayetteville, N.C., Baptists stepped up to help him with funding, coaching and networking through their giving to the North Carolina Baptist Mission Offering (NCMO).
But Brady’s firsthand experience with church planting didn’t end 17 years ago when he planted The River Community Church. In the past two decades, his church has sent church planters throughout North Carolina, North America and the world.
The NCMO, which supports church planting efforts throughout the state, has become instrumental in that work.
“You’re a part of something bigger than yourself when you’re receiving funding from our state convention through these offerings,” Brady said. “You’re a part of a fellowship that’s very special, and people believe in you. I think that goes a long way with these guys, and their wives and families. They’re part of the Great Commission, but they’re not on their own. That’s very encouraging to these planters.”
Brady says he has always been a bit of a trailblazer. When he came to Christ as a student at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, he was one of the first members of the campus’ CRU ministry (then called Campus Crusade for Christ). Soon after graduation, he moved to Atlanta to help a friend start a church. After seminary, he pastored a few existing churches before sensing God was moving him toward church planting where he could leverage his passion for starting new ministries.
When Brady started the church, the I-295 bypass was only in the planning stages. Since its completion, the community has grown significantly, Brady says. The church has grown, too.
“It’s created a lot of housing development in the area and a lot of growth,” Brady said. “When people move into the area, they look for a church near where they live, and we’re here. When we first started, we had no idea that any of that was actually going to happen, so it was like God saw where we needed to be.”
But The River Community Church’s growth is about more than their geography. From the beginning, the church has focused on serving the community. For its first 10 years, the church was completely mobile, meeting in seven different locations during that time.
“That created an intentionality to be on mission, not just around the world, but across the street,” Brady said. “Our congregational DNA code got written during those first 10 years. We were going to serve our community. We didn’t expect our community to serve us.”
That’s meant everything from knocking on doors and telling people about Jesus to hosting block parties in the community. Early on, church members would go to a local home improvement store, hand out bottled water and help people load their vehicles. Unless asked, they wouldn’t tell the people they were meeting where they were from. But the people they met asked, and word of mouth spread about the local church that seemed to always be out helping the community.
The River Community Church supports church plants in India and Peru and has been involved in planting churches in the Baltimore area through the North American Mission Board. They also partner with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina to plant churches locally with the same community-first DNA.
“That’s one of the reasons we’re so passionate about the [North Carolina Missions Offering],” Brady said. “We received the help, and now we’re able to help [other church plants]. But it also goes to the planters that we’re working with to plant churches. So, if church planting is a priority, then that offering has to be a priority.”
The River Community Church is one of the top churches in the state in giving to the NCMO. More than one-quarter (28%) of the offering supports church planting throughout the state. Those resources help to assess, train and fund around 100 North Carolina church planters in a typical pre-COVID-19 year.
Mike Pittman, the church planting strategist for N.C. Baptists, notes that the state convention doesn’t plant churches with those funds. Churches plant churches, he says. The state mission offering allows the convention to partner with sending churches to start churches throughout the state.
“I want to thank all of our churches that participate in the North Carolina Missions Offering, for being such a huge part of the work that we do,” Pittman said. “Because of their gifts, not only are we able to fund new churches, but those funds help us train church planters, and we’re able to do all of that tuition-free for the planter. Most everything we do is free of charge to the planter. And it’s because of the North Carolina Missions Offering. That’s a huge part of the reason we’re able to be so generous with these potential missionary planters.”
by Tobin Perry, Contributing Writer, Biblical Recorder