Maximizing Momentum and Mobilizing Church Planters in Montana

Lee MerckAll Enews, Planting Team

Partnerships are vital to the work of church planting in Montana. A group of pastors from Missouri has invested in our Montana church planters.  They are helping to create momentum and further mobilize God-called men and women for the advancement of the gospel in Big Sky country. A true cooperative effort has begun, and we are experiencing partnership at a new level. At this year’s Montana Church Planter Retreat, God showed up in a powerful way and united hearts and minds to further the cause of Christ as we plant new churches in Montana. Only God knows what the future holds as we cooperate for the sake of the gospel. 

Missouri Baptists host retreat for Montana church planters, pastors

FEBRUARY 11, 2022 BY TIM HOWE

ANACONDA, Mont. – Montana is changing. Regal mountains and boundless horizons still welcome visitors, but with people moving to the Big Sky State in droves, the human landscape has shifted. In 2020, Missouri Baptists partnered with our sister churches in Montana to hold up their arms as they reach out to native Montanans and now, new arrivals.

As part of that partnership, Missouri Baptist Pastor Lane Harrison of LifePoint Church, Ozark, Mo., led a team of Missouri Baptists to host a strategic weekend retreat for Montana church planters and pastors, along with their families. Harrison also serves as 2nd vice president for the Missouri Baptist Convention.

Approximately 125 people attended the retreat, which took place on Jan. 20-22 at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort in Anaconda, Mont.

Pastor Lane Harrison of LifePoint Church, Ozark, with his wife Christin.

The vision for the retreat started two years ago when Harrison began conversing with Lee Merck, the Lead Church Planting Catalyst for the Montana Southern Baptist Convention.

“I asked him, ‘What are your biggest needs and what are the ways we can partner to help you?’” Harrison said.

The conversation led to Harrison attending the Montana Southern Baptist Convention’s (MTSBC) 2021 MPACT event, a retreat for pastors and their families. After further discussion with Merck, the MTSBC agreed to let Harrison and LifePoint lead and host the retreat for the next five years.

“We wanted to see the retreat not as an individual event, but as a catalytic moment to strengthen and advance church planting across Montana for Montana,” Harrison said. 

Harrison knows firsthand the difficulties of planting and pastoring a church, and his goal was to offer church planters and established church pastors a place of refuge, renewal, and rekindling.

To prepare, Harrison enlisted a team of Missouri pastors including Seth Shelton, pastor of The Way Church in Springfield, Mo.; Scott Perry, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Sullivan, Mo.; Justin Perry, pastor of FBC Viburnum, Mo.; John Edie, former Executive pastor at Second Baptist Church, Springfield, Mo.; and Chris Williams, pastor of Fellowship Church in Greenwood, Mo. Each of these pastors shares Harrison’s heart for church planting, and they each prepared and led sessions during the retreat. LifePoint also assembled a group to provide a week-long VBS for the pastors’ kids, as well as a youth team to minister to teenagers. Altogether, about 20 people journeyed to Montana to serve the pastors and their families.

The venue provided a relaxing environment, complete with two Olympic size swimming pools fed by natural hot springs. While offering the families a chance to refresh was part of the goal, the retreat was much more than a needed getaway. The theme of the retreat was Oros, the Greek work for “mountain” in Matthew 14:23, where Jesus retreated to pray. Over three days, participants attended main sessions that focused on the theme of joy from Philippians. During the first session, Harrison spoke about the reality of depression in ministry, a topic he said hit home.

“In Montana, it’s normal to be two or three hours from the next planter or pastor,” Harrison remarked. “You can only imagine what the sheer isolation can do to you in that context.”

“Many pastors, including Charles Spurgeon, have wrestled with depression. The other speakers and I were able to share about seasons of depression in our own ministry and how the Lord brought us through,” Harrison said.

The retreat also offered breakout sessions for both pastors and their wives. Breakout sessions for pastors included practical topics such as missional strategy as well as personal topics such as soul care for the pastor and rhythms of a pastor’s life. Christin Harrison, Lane’s wife, provided insight and encouragement for pastor’s wives on the challenges of being partners in ministry.

Participants shared meals together and even late-night conversations in the hot tub. Lane noted that it’s amazing what connections you can make when you are able to relax, laugh, and dream together.

“We want that fellowship to continue beyond the retreat, and I want us to come home with gospel fuel and urgency to do our work at home,” Harrison said.

The response from participants was extremely positive, and Harrison and the team look forward to continuing the work in years ahead. He also mentioned they are looking for one or two more church partners who can help support and join the work they’ve begun. If you are interested, you can contact Pastor Harrison at lharrison@lifepointozark.com. To view the sessions from the retreat, visit https://montana.e-quip.net/channels/456.

About the Author

Lee Merck

Lee Merck is the Church Planting Team Leader for Montana and pastor of The Church at Four Corners in Bozeman.