California man comes cross country to plant multiethnic church in NC

November 19, 2020

Is God behind the North Carolina Baptist effort to plant new churches across the state?

Gary Lee says yes.

He says God called him from California to plant a new church in Raleigh.

In fact, Lee is one of many church planters who have been called from other states and nations to plant new churches across North Carolina.

“We have prayed for some time, asking God to send us church planters. And He has done that,” says Mike Pittman, who heads the Church Planting team of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC).

Every year this team trains, coaches and provides financial support to more than 100 church planters all over the state. It’s a multiethnic effort focused on reaching a number of different language groups. Convention leaders have identified 250 pockets of lostness across the state. These are areas with high concentrations of people without Christ, people who need to know Him.

Convention leaders are partnering with local churches and associations to rally Baptists to launch outreach efforts and plant new churches in these most needy areas.

Lee is a born-and-bred Californian — a third-generation Chinese American who was born and grew up in Sacramento. His mother died when Lee was 10.

“That rocked my world, and I hated God all through junior high and high school,” Lee said. “I did not like authority. I lived recklessly.”

But during his senior year of high school, a friend committed suicide. What happens when you die, Lee wondered. About that time friends invited him to a church and eventually he came to trust Christ as his Savior.

God is drawing people from around the United States and the world to live, go to school, work and meet Jesus Christ here.

Called to ministry, he attended seminary in Los Angeles, where he met his wife, Tracy. He served at a Southern Baptist church in San José, Calif., and was ordained by that church. He later served eight years at a second Southern Baptist church in Berkeley.

When he and his wife sensed a call to go elsewhere, at first they assumed it was another place in California. But as they prayed, they asked God where He was calling people from around the world. Lee was totally surprised when that place turned out to be North Carolina.

He, Tracy and their three kids moved to North Carolina in 2017, where he soon connected with the Baptist state convention and its Church Planting team in 2018.

The new church Lee planted is called Rooted Church to emphasize prayer, outreach, community engagement and discipleship. The vision of Rooted Church is to be “rooted in the gospel to reflect God’s glory.” The mission of Rooted Church is to enjoy the gospel, to equip disciples in community and to engage the cities around the Research Triangle Park (RTP).

In some ways, Lee says North Carolina is different from Northern California. But there is a sense that God is bringing the nations, a diversity of people, to both North Carolina and Northern California. Most of the people he meets aren’t from North Carolina. God is drawing people from around the United States and the world to live, go to school, work and meet Jesus Christ here.

Lee says his first thought was to reach second- or third-generation Chinese like himself. But he says, “God is doing a work in our church to broaden our vision.”

They are reaching Asians from many lands and others as well.

The new church has been meeting in a rented space on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, near the Meredith College campus. The church has engaged in outreach through prayer, socials, growth groups, social media, a website, word of mouth, signs, and distributing fliers and business cards.

Since God moved Lee more than 2,400 miles to plant a new church, the future looks promising by God’s grace.


by Mike Creswell  /  Contributing Writer

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