Exponential East: Acts 29 Network Helps African Americans and Latinos Thrive as Church Planters

Acts 29, an international organization of church planters, has expanded its resources to urban leaders who seek to start a church within their communities, said president and pastor Matt Chandler during the Exponential East conference Thursday.

Church planters generally become a part of the organization's residency program where they are prepared to plant a gospel-centered, church planting church. However, the program for urban leaders differs in that they receive theological and character development training as well as functional tools to begin their own churches.

"What we've really invested in is our Thriving Residencies for urban planters, specifically African American and Latinos. We just spotted this reality that these guys oftentimes come to Anglo suburban churches for their residencies but then they're completely out of the context in which they'll actually minister," Chandler said during the conference's live webcast.

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Chandler's message during the conference was focused on the works of Acts 29 with the intent to inspire and encourage participants to rethink and rediscover outreach and evangelism.

He also noted that the need to offer resources to urban leaders began out of sheer acknowledgment that oftentimes, many of them lack basic means to start and maintain a church. African American and Latino church communities also usually lack theological educators and basic discipleship programs, he said. That is why his organization's efforts are shifting to this demographic with the hope to begin a movement.

"What we're really trying to do is to serve as a global catalyst for church planting so we're looking to identify, train and launch gospel-centered, bible-believing, Jesus-loving missional churches all over the world," said Chandler.

Part of their work within urban communities also involves spending much time with the church planter and his wife as a priority. Acts 29 leaders assess the couple and equip them first before training and working with the couple's team who will help them launch their church.

To maintain the church, Chandler explained that church planters create a relational network through the organization by which they can fundraise. Furthermore, all churches in partnership with Acts 29 devote a Sunday solely to fundraise in order to benefit one another.

"All our churches do church-planting Sundays where all our pastors will do a message on church planting. They take an offering and their commitment with that offering is that they keep 90 percent of what comes in for their local church and 10 percent comes to us to engage in regions that maybe don't have as much resources," Chandler explained.

Although Acts 29 has helped leaders plant churches throughout the world, there are regions within North America where church planting efforts are much more evident.

"Our strongest regions are the Southwest region and the Northwest, they got massive residency programs there and are planting more churches that any other parts. However, our fastest growing is the Northeast region," said Chandler.

Acts 29 began over a decade ago and emerged from a small band of brothers to nearly 500 churches in the United States and around the world, leaders say.

In addition to running Acts 29, Chandler also serves as lead pastor of The Village Church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, where he was involved in changing the theological and philosophical culture of the congregation as part of a replanting effort.  

Since then, the church has grown from 160 people to over 11,000 with campuses in Flower Mound, Dallas, Denton and Fort Worth.

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