ST. LOUIS, Mo. (CHRISTIAN EXAMINER)—A growing church-planting network is taking root in St. Louis and spreading throughout the Midwest, according to a recent interview for a St. Louis Christian radio station. In the interview, local church planting leader Darren Casper discusses Plant Midwest in a 10-minute interview with St. Louis Christian radio host Harold Hendrick.
During the interview Casper, who serves as the associate executive director of the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association, shared how he started Plant St. Louis with six or seven church planters just a few years ago. The gatherings bring church planters together "to learn, pray and connect."
"It grew to 20 or 30, then we had 50," Casper told Hendrick. "Next thing you knew we had a meeting where we had nearly 200 guys coming—and they were coming from as far away as Kansas City and up near Chicago."
Casper says instead of the network trying to draw people from these far-away locations to continue to meet in St. Louis, Plant Midwest began similar networks in other locations throughout the region. Currently, Casper says, Plant Midwest meetings take place is St. Louis, Kansas City, Mo., Chicago, Detroit, Springfield, Mo., and Omaha, Neb. Local leaders administrate the meetings in each location.
"For instance, there were some good guys and brothers up in Omaha, Neb., that I had never met before, but they had contacted us and said they had heard about Plant Midwest, what our goals are, what our vision was behind the gatherings, and they said 'We would like to start something like that up here,'" Casper said. "So we went up there, and we met with their leadership team, some of the church planters and some of the associational, regional leadership folks. So they started their own gathering. It's called Plant Omaha, but it's underneath the Plant Midwest umbrella."
Though Casper serves on staff of the local Southern Baptist association in St. Louis, the Plant Midwest efforts go beyond denomination. Church planting leaders from a variety of denominations are involved. On top of that the gatherings draw speakers from a variety of denominational backgrounds to teach at the gatherings. A recent meeting, Casper added, was held at a local St. Louis Presbyterian church.
"We had people from many different denominations and affiliations that were there with us," Casper said of the recent Plant St. Louis meeting at Grace and Peace Fellowship in St. Louis. "In time, some of the younger guys, they might end up partnering with us more formally, but what we're most concerned about is the kingdom in St. Louis. If they become Baptists, that's great, but as long as we are all about Christ and his gospel, that's what is most important."
According to the Plant Midwest website the network is a "gospel-centered, Holy Spirit empowered, church planting movement that helps leaders gather to learn, pray, and connect." The website also states that the gatherings identify with the "historic principles of partnership and cooperation that were essential in building the Southern Baptist Convention." The website asserts the desire to see a church planting movement begin in the Midwest as has been seen in Asian settings, such as India and China.
Casper told Hendrick that he believes prayer is the key component of this effort.
"Really, if we can be known for anything related to church planting, we really want to be a prayer movement," Casper said. "Prayer is the central foundation for everything we do at a Plant Midwest gathering."
Casper noted that the church plants represented at Plant Midwest often meet in non-traditional locations, including homes and cafes. One participating St. Louis church recently launched by meeting in a park for a baptismal service. Casper and Hendrick also discussed how the meetings draw church planters who have come out of a variety of backgrounds—at times fairly rough ones—but who have been transformed by the gospel.
"I think one of the most challenging things for us as the local church is for us to believe," Casper said. "In scripture, one of the writers said, 'I believe but help my unbelief.' And if we can just believe how powerful the gospel really is to change the life of any person, regardless of their past experiences, we can see God do great things."
To download the full interview, visit http://haroldhendrick.com/content/view/693/5/. The interview was originally broadcasted on AM 1320 in St. Louis. For more information about Plant Midwest, visit http://www.plantmidwest.com/.