In 1974, Tony Lynn heard the gospel from a bivocational pastor at First Baptist Church Swartz Creek, Michigan. As a result Lynn became a Christian, and in his youth he thought God was calling him to be an engineer and build buildings for the Lord.
“God called me to build people for the Lord rather than buildings,” Lynn said he learned later.
His girlfriend (now wife), Jamie, encouraged him in the call as a pastor knowing her life would look different as a pastor’s wife.
Lynn has since served 20 years in local congregations in Kentucky and Michigan, 13 years as a pastor overseas and now as state director of missions and a church planting leader at the Baptist State Convention of Michigan for seven years.
He believes his background — along with a doctorate in postmodernism — has prepared him to serve in the role he has today.
“My life verse is Acts 20:24,” Lynn said. “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus — the work of telling others the good news about the wonderful grace of God.
“My life is not centered on preaching directly anymore,” he noted. “I am not center stage, but others are so they can bring others to Christ. I am doing ministry from a supportive role now, and I want to see others succeed in sharing the gospel.”
Why a need for church planting?
“Michigan is known for its factories, high production, pharmaceuticals, research, transportation and for the longest freshwater shoreline in the world,” Lynn noted. “Why not be a state that produces the gospel?”
He said many people travel through Michigan, especially international college students.
“So many people come to our universities, and they return to their countries as missionaries,” Lynn explained.
The international influence in Michigan combined with Lynn’s background in overseas missions has opened doors for people who speak different languages to come together and hear the gospel.
“Having been international missionaries in Africa and France made me and my wife more aware of the culture around us,” Lynn explained.
“We have seen accelerated growth of Spanish, Arabic and Asian people in the last few years, and now we are having language assessments for non-English speakers to prepare them for church planting.”
As church planting grows in Michigan, the convention is seeing church plants grow other churches and become sending churches. As a result, preachers are coming together, interacting with one another, coaching and collaborating, Lynn said. More preachers are coming to Michigan to help plant churches and they are risking their lives by leaving secure jobs and moving their families.
“The process of church planting has been owned, and it is important to all churches in Michigan — preachers want to see other preachers succeed,” Lynn declared.
Tasks and friendships
He helps more than 50 church plants and church planting families in Michigan, and he wants preachers and church planters to know they are not alone.
“One of the beauties of my job is that it leads to close friendships that last a lifetime,” Lynn said. “This is surprising to most people. I am here, as well as the rest of the convention, to serve preachers and new church planters, not to direct their agenda.”
He noted that as the state director of missions and church planting leader his job is to help every preacher and church be successful at the calling God has placed on them.
To learn more about the Baptist State Convention of Michigan’s church planting efforts through the North American Mission Board’s Send Network , click here.