Mission Lab 2018

Reach Houston: ‘We need more churches’

‘Vision tour,’ June 5-7, will give church leaders overview of strategy

April 11th, 2017 / By: Michael Foust / comments

Reach Houston: ‘We need more churches’

Ben Hays, the strategist for the SBTC’s Reach Houston initiative, understands why some people are puzzled by a major church planting strategy in Houston, the largest city in the Bible Belt. But it doesn’t take him long to persuade those same people that it’s needed. 

Geographically, the Greater Houston area is larger than six states, including New Jersey. Houston’s population ranks fourth nationally, although it is projected to pass third-place Chicago in the next 10 years. And earlier this decade Houston surpassed New York as the most ethnically diverse city in the U.S., according to a study of U.S. Census data. More than 300 people groups call it home.

But it is the city’s rapid growth that has led to the Reach Houston initiative, which has three goals: 1) planting new churches, 2) revitalizing current ones, and, 3) mobilizing mission teams from churches outside of Houston to go on a short-term trip within the Greater Houston area. 

“You have 2,000 new people to reach with the gospel per week, and it is not even possible for current churches to reach them fast enough. Numerically, we need more churches.”

—Ben Hays, SBTC Reach Houston initiative strategist

“The population in Houston is growing at an astronomically faster rate than churches are growing. Houston is growing by 2,000 new people a week,” said Hays, who also serves as pastor of the Church in the Center in downtown Houston. “Therefore, you have 2,000 new people to reach with the gospel per week, and it is not even possible for current churches to reach them fast enough. Numerically, we need more churches.”

The task becomes even more urgent when considering that 68 percent of people in Houston are lost and unchurched. 

“Most of the people who are moving here are not people who are coming from the Bible Belt where they have the same set of presuppositions of who Christ is,” Hays said. “So it’s people who are coming, mostly, without the knowledge of Christ. They’re coming from all over the world. And because the city is not only growing but the city is changing, we need not only more churches but many more types of churches.”

On June 5-7, Hays will host pastors and church leaders as part of a “vision tour” where they will tour the city, meet with church planters, and hear about their vision and needs. The goal is to forge partnerships. 

“The idea is to let them get a firsthand taste of what is already going on and what partnerships could emerge to continue helping us plant more churches in Houston,” Hays said. 

The Reach Houston initiative already has experienced spiritual fruit. Fourteen churches have been planted, and church planters have related stories such as:

  • A man who had been going to church off and on his entire life finally accepted Christ through the work of a church plant, The Pathway Church. “This is becoming a regular thing on the east side [of Houston],” said the church’s pastor, Chris Bradford. “The Holy Spirit is moving on the hearts of blue collar plant workers, and they are primed for the harvest.”
  • A woman who gave her life to Christ shared her experience with her Catholic family, who condemned her decision. “We are trying to walk her through what it looks like to forsake father, mother, brother and sister for Christ,” said church planter John Powell of Emmanuel Baptist Church. “It’s difficult for her.”
  • A member of a church plant led someone else to Christ. The woman started a conversation with a Kroger gas station cashier, and the two agreed to meet later at Starbucks, where the cashier prayed to receive Christ. “She has shared the gospel with many and prays regularly for her family and friends,” said church planter Buddy Brents of the Nations Church. “The gospel still changes lives.”

Thankfully, Hays said, churches outside of Houston are seeing the need to plant churches throughout the region.

“One of the successes we’re seeing is the responsiveness of our established churches across Texas that are willing and ready to come to Houston on a mission trip and come alongside and join us,” Hays said. “In other words, the churches in Texas are seeing how Houston is a very vibrant and compelling mission field, and churches are responding to that call and wanting to be a part of what God is doing here.” 

For more information about the vision tour or involvment in Reach Houston, contact Ben Hays at bhays@sbtexas.com or at 832-489-3908. 

Learn more about Reach Houston at ReachHouston.net