RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – First Baptist Church in Russellville is no stranger to sending out and supporting church planters. For many years, they’ve helped send out and support planters across the state and beyond. Back in the day, several small churches in the Russellville area were started by FBC.
With the mindset in place to follow the great commission, Jay Ham, Equipping Pastor of Missions, Outreach, and Recreation, at FBC Russellville, said the vision for their new residency program has been in the making for years.
“Our pastor, Greg Sykes, has been wanting to do something like this for years,” Ham said. “We have said we want to be intentional about sending people out from our church, with our DNA, to plant churches across the world – it’s our biggest hope in sharing the Gospel.”
The Acts Institute uses Acts 1:8 as the inspiration, which says,
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Ham described the concept as if their church was a kitchen. They’re cooking up a lot in the kitchen that will eventually be sent out and served to the world in different ways. The Acts Institute will do many different things, but one of the core ideas is the church planting residency program they’re going to start.
Many of FBC’s church planters have come straight from their pews. Ham said they’ve pulled guys from their own pews who felt called to pastor and teach. Many have gone on to plant local churches like Church In The Dirt, Hello Church on the campus of Arkansas Tech University, and Mercy Tree Fellowship Cowboy Church in nearby Dover.
The residency will be a two-year program that Ham and the FBC Russellville team has put together over the years that includes theological training and other materials from the North American Mission Board (NAMB). They’ve also partnered with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) and its Church Planting Team to assist with assessments, etc.
What’s unique about this residency, and The Acts Institute overall, is anyone can go through the program. Not everyone is called to plant a church and pastor. Some are called to other parts of the process like children’s leaders, working on sound and video, or even simply helping fill the pews.
“We’ve had families leave because they’ve felt called to go and help a church plant by just being there and encouraging others to come,” Ham said. Doing a program like this isn’t hard, Ham had said. It’s all about being intentional with your congregation and your mission to share the Gospel.
“If you’re going to make leaders, you have to be intentional. If you’re going to send missionaries from your church, you have to be intentional,” Ham said. “You just have to be intentional about the training and sending out people. We wanted our youth ministry, we wanted our college ministry, our worship ministry training for this. We just wanted to be intentional about sending people out from our church, with our DNA, to plant churches across the world – it’s our biggest hope for fulfilling the Great Commission.”