By Tobin Perry
DETROIT—New Send North America: Detroit City Coordinator Wayne Parker believes now is a unique time to engage the city with the good news of Jesus Christ. Parker, who pastors Merriman Road Baptist Church in metro Detroit, says the Motor City is on the cusp of great change.
“This is a key moment for Detroit,” said Parker, who grew up in the Detroit metro area and has lived there most of his life. “There’s a renaissance in Detroit. There is a move to revitalize the city. Places that are currently vacant—where people hadn’t been living—people are moving into those places in the city. We need to be there now—rather than later. Not just because properties are cheaper now than they will be, but because people are moving into a spiritual vacuum, and we need churches there already running to receive a new population coming to the city.”
As the North American Mission Board’s new Detroit city coordinator, Parker will help mobilize Southern Baptist church planters and partner churches to engage the city through evangelistic church planting. He will focus on engaging areas identified in the city plan completed last May. Parker helped develop that plan—along with other metro Detroit leaders—as the chair of the Send North America: Detroit strategy team.
In the counties that make up the Send North America: Detroit focus area, Southern Baptists have one church for every 36,227 people. That number is likely much higher within the city limits of Detroit.
Detroit is one of 32 large and influential Send North America cities, divided into five regions, where NAMB is focusing its Send North America strategy. Send North America is NAMB’s national strategy to connect partnering churches with church planters throughout the continent—but specifically in places of the greatest need.
NAMB’s goal is to come alongside Southern Baptists as they plant 15,000 new churches by 2022. A little more than 10 percent of the metro Detroit population identify themselves with an evangelical church.
Parker will continue to serve as the pastor of Merriman Road, where he has pastored since 1996 and where he grew up. Before coming to Merriman Road, he served as a church planter and an associational missionary, among other positions.
Parker realizes that Southern Baptists face real challenges when trying to push back lostness in one of the most iconic cities in North America. First, he cites the city’s high diversity, including one of the largest Muslim populations on the continent.
Second, Parker says, there’s been a long-standing divide—both within the Church and outside of it—between the city of Detroit and its surrounding suburbs. Third, many existing SBC churches in metro Detroit were started by Southerners who came to Detroit for jobs. When they retired, many went back home, leaving SBC churches in the city weak.
“I’ve got a strong burden for us to plant churches in the city,” Parker said. “Detroit has some formidable challenges. It’s going to be difficult to get partners to come and planters to come. I’ve been here most of my life. That adds to my burden that we need to plant churches, otherwise we won’t see any advances.”
He adds that he is leading Merriman Road to have that same church planting focus.
“The need in Detroit is great,” Parker said. “In a northern state like Michigan, our resources are very limited. I think right now people are aware of the need in Detroit—at least the physical needs—with what’s happened with the automotive industry and what’s happened with our city government, we’re in the papers frequently. I believe God has given us favor among Southern Baptists. They’re sensitive to the need here. I want to be able to champion that cause.”
For more information about Send North America: Detroit, visit, namb.net/Detroit.
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.