Editor’s note: This story was modified on July 31, 2019, to provide clarification on the historical Christian influence in Seattle.
More than 4 million people live in the Greater Seattle area. The city is home to national corporations including Amazon, Starbucks, UPS and Microsoft. It’s a land of great opportunity and wealth, yet an undercurrent of spiritual poverty exists.
Andrew and Kim Arthur moved to Seattle in 2011 to plant a church and found the spiritual darkness truly astounding. They described the area as a pre-Christian society, because many people they encounter have little-to-no knowledge of the Gospel. The Hallows Church, planted by the Arthurs in the Fremont area, is seven years old, and now one of the Northwest Baptist Convention's oldest existing churches in downtown Seattle. While there have been churches in the area for many decades, many have closed and a renewed emphasis is needed to reach the growing population of unchurched.
The church planting work in Seattle requires perseverance on every side, according to Andrew. Due to the transient nature of the city, a new group of people moves in and out of their church about every two years.
“We need partners who are praying for us,” said Kim. “For God’s grace to break through us and to raise up laborers who are not distracted or discouraged. Partners who will send people to encourage. It is mission work right here in the States.”
Andrew and Kim shared their testimony with a group of 20 Texas Baptists on a Vision Tour of Seattle from February 25-27. Through a new partnership with the Northwest Baptist Convention, church planting in the Northwest is now an area of emphasis for Texas Baptists. Tom Howe, associate director of the Missions Team, director of Church Starting, Church Starting Partnerships and Re-plants for Texas Baptists, coordinated the Seattle trip, as well as five other Vision Tours in the Spring of 2019 to cities in Oregon, Washington, Northern Idaho, as well as Michigan.
“The Seattle Vision Tour was a tremendous blessing,” said Ridge Adams, pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Temple. “Being able to meet church planters who are plowing the fields that are ripe for harvest was definitely the highlight of the trip. Even in the midst of a region that is so diverse and unchurched, I could see God working in every people group and ministry area that we visited.”
During the Vision Tour, three groups of Texas Baptists visited new church plants, areas where new work could be started, as well as college campuses. The groups heard testimonies from local church planters about how God is at work, needs they have, and opportunities for partnerships.
“God has provided a vision and a way to reach the souls of Seattle in a very strategic way,” observed Santiago Rodriguez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Nuevo Comienzos in Humble, TX. “All of the missionaries have a clear understanding and strategic path to reach each community and God has provided unity of spirit and collaboration.”
Corey Stewart, minister to College Students at First Baptist Church in Amarillo, went on the trip to see how his church could potentially partner with college ministry. Currently, there is not an evangelical presence on any of the college campuses in Seattle.
“With the area of my ministry being college students, my passion is for reaching this generation,” said Stewart. “Sharing that passion with the churches in the Seattle area made me feel as if real work and ministry can happen there. I am excited for what is to come from this partnership between Texas and Seattle and to see what God is going to do in the years to come.”
Texas Baptists currently have one Go Now Missions student missionary serving in Seattle and have sent many student mission teams to the Northwest for ministry. Texas Baptists Collegiate Ministry plans to continue to work alongside Northwest College Ministry to train leaders on how to minister to college students and begin campus ministries.
As he welcomed the Texas Baptists to Seattle on the first night of the trip, Gary Irby, director of Church Planting for NBC, extended an invitation for the church leaders, and broader Texas Baptists family, to join the work God is doing in the Northwest.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do and we need help,” said Irby. “We need church planters to be raised up and church planters to come. This is international missions without a passport…God is at work here — the question is whether you are supposed to join us.”
For more information on how your church can partner with church planting efforts in the Northwest or Michigan, contact Tom Howe, associate director of the Missions Team, director of Church Starting, Church Starting Partnerships and Re-plants. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 214.828.5278.