Missionaries on the frontline of evangelism in the United States were recognized for their church planting works during the North American Mission Board's 2006 Church Planting Missionaries Forum in Atlanta.
NAMB named five of its jointly-funded missionaries as "Church Planting Missionaries of the Year" for their work in starting new Southern Baptist Convention churches last year, according to Baptist Press. The five represented an ethnically diverse group of church planters in a nation that became the fourth most "unchurched" nation in the world and the mission field for the Southern Baptist domestic missions agency.
"Church planting missionaries are our front-line strategists to evangelize and congregationalize North America," said Richard Harris, vice president of church planting for NAMB, according to Baptist Press. They are the most ethnically diverse group of leaders in the SBC, and model what North America looks like when you walk the streets."
Chuy Avila of the Tennessee Baptist Convention was named Hispanic Church Planting Missionary of the year; Dave Howeth of the Montana convention received the Associational Director of Missions/Church Planter of the Year; James Jenkins of the Louisiana Baptist Convention was named African-American Church Planting Missionary of the Year; Pam Mungo, Baptist state convention of North Carolina was named Anglo Church Planting Missionary of the Year; and Jo Robledo Jr. of the California Southern Baptist Convention received the Multiethnic Church Planting Missionary of the Year recognition.
"It was with great joy and gratitude that NAMB recognizes 2005's five most outstanding church planting missionaries, who are some of the finest of our spiritual warriors, and who are passionate about penetrating our culture with the gospel," said Harris. "These folks are some of the greatest heroes we have as Southern Baptists."
The mission agency recently commissioned 143 new missionaries and chaplains to be dispatched across the United States - a nation that sends more missionaries than any other country yet is becoming increasingly "unchurched," according to ministry leaders.
The United States is now the 13th largest receiving nation of Christian missionaries, including Hispanics, Brazilians and Asians, from around the world.
Avila led the planting of 49 Hispanic churches in five years; Howeth helped plant five new churches in two years and will launch two more this year; Jenkins helped plant over 50 new churches and is pushing toward 200 plants by 2010; Mungo, a strategist for Anglo and African-American church starts, has worked with 150 new churches since 1996; and Robledo helped start five new churches in 2005.