Converge is a movement of churches working to help people meet, know and follow Jesus. We do this by starting and strengthening churches together worldwide. For more than 165 years, we’ve helped churches and individuals bring life change to communities in the U.S. and around the world through church planting and discipleship multiplication, leadership training and coaching and global missions.
We often talk about being “Better Together.” Throughout our history, we have seen churches, leaders and missionaries join forces throughout God’s power to accomplish the impossible.
Our churches come together around something greater than a compelling mission. What brings us together is Christ’s completed work on the cross. Because of the cross, we have forgiveness from our past, power for our present and hope for our future.
As a result, we converge around the cross to take what Christ has done for us and make it known to others. Our goal is to give every person the opportunity to hear the gospel, say “yes” to Jesus, grow in faith, be equipped to serve and be sent out. We want every person to experience a life-changing, personal relationship with Jesus.
How it all started
In 1844, a group of women from the Baptist churches in New York City petitioned their leaders to start a ministry to reach sailors who visited the New York ports. They established First Baptist Mariners Church and chartered a ship called Zion and its 13 crew members to sail the Atlantic with the gospel. Fredrik Nilsson, a Swedish sea captain, had adopted Baptist views and began his evangelistic efforts toward the people of Sweden. During this time, the Swedish state church had strong penalties toward Swedes who held to Baptist views, including fines and imprisonment. In Nilsson’s case, because he was so evangelistic, he was banned from the country and resided in Copenhagen, but made frequent trips to evangelize his people and other priests. Religious persecution and economic opportunity led many Swedes to flee to North America.
In 1852, Gustaf Palmquistemigrated from Sweden to the United States. A lay school teacher, Nilsson’s teaching had moved him toward Baptist views, and he was invited to come and establish a Baptist congregation in the new world. Palmquist was baptized June 27, 1852, in Galesburg, Illinois, ordained a month later and then opened his first church on August 13, 1852. There, he and three others whom he baptized that day organized a Swedish Baptist church in Rock Island, Illinois.
Fredrik Nilsson arrived in America the next year with 21 immigrants. Some of these united with the Rock Island church, while others organized a church at Houston, Minnesota. Nilsson, joined by Anders Wiberg, a Swedish priest also converted to Baptist views by Nilsson, traveled widely, founding and strengthening churches among Swedes dispersed across the Midwest. By the time Palmquist returned to Sweden six years later, the trio had started nine churches totaling 247 people.
In 1879, when the Swedish churches had grown to 65 in number, they formed a General Conference of Swedish Baptists. By the 1940s, the members of these churches had assimilated into American society and gradually lost their separate ethnic identity. As a result, they dropped the word “Swedish” from their name and became the Baptist General Conference in 1945. In 2008, this group chose to rename itself as Converge.
Today, Converge consists of over 1400 bible-believing churches spread across almost every state in the U.S. and a record 183 missionaries serving in 36 countries around the world. What began with a Swedish heritage has transformed into a great multicultural movement.
Converge is made up of 11 geographic districts across the U.S. Each district is led by an executive minister with a team ready to support churches, pastors and staff in their region.
It begins with three words: Start. Strengthen. Send.
We’re committed to starting missionally minded churches until every people group and community has heard the gospel. We start churches that start churches to see lives changed with Christ’s love and truth. Converge Church Planting provides a clear pathway to:
We’ve created proven strategies, systems and training all designed to improve the success of church planters and church wanting to multiply so more people will have the opportunity to accept Jesus.
We strengthen existing churches. Strong churches are led by strong leaders. So we equip leaders to expand their ministry impact and fulfill the unique calling God has given them. Converge trains you with the tools you need to grow as a leader and develop new leaders. We teach you how to break growth barriers, create effective outreach and discipleship strategies and become financially self-sustaining to increase ministry impact and reach more people in your community for Jesus. Our coaching and covering networks provide the support you need to maintain spiritual, emotional and physical health so that your ministry and personal life thrive.
Connection to other pastors, districts and national office
As we anticipate the second coming of Jesus, many in the world haven’t heard of his first coming. So together, we ask God to create a gospel movement among every least-reached people group in our generation. While we want all people to know Jesus, we focus on the least-reached peoples of the world. We equip leaders to create movements that impact individuals, communities and regions through the power of the gospel. With this focus, people who have never heard the name of Jesus will have the chance to hear and accept the good news.
We can help churches and those interested in missions:
Strategies and training to help reach the diverse populations in your community
Unity through Diversity
As we celebrate our human differences, we unite around God’s word — the final authority on all matters, including cultural and social issues. We take seriously God’s expectations for diversity in his churches emphasized in Acts 17:26-27, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11 and Revelation 7:9-10. God’s people are multiethnic, multiracial and multicultural. To reach the entire world for Jesus, biblical diversity is required. The gospel sets the foundation for racial and cultural reconciliation.
We are committed to reaching people of all colors, cultures and classes with the gospel of Jesus Christ and making him known throughout the world.
As part of that vision, and in response to the great challenges of the church modeling the power of reconciliation and collaboration that the gospel provides, Converge established an Office of Biblical Diversity. This office works alongside its districts to encourage, empower and equip churches to champion biblical diversity in their communities.
We are forming biblical diversity teams throughout the U.S. that can help churches build strategies, skills and systems to become biblically diverse and meet the social needs throughout their communities.
In addition, Converge Ministry Expansion Teams (METs) representing ministry to cultural and ethnic groups — including Filipino, Haitian, Vietnamese and Hispanic congregations — make up a significant portion of our movement. These ministry expansion teams can assist churches in reaching specific cultural groups with the gospel.
Our vision for the future
Throughout our history, we have seen generations of churches, leaders and missionaries join forces through God’s power to accomplish the impossible. His command to go and make disciples resonates in our hearts and churches. In 2016, our national and district leadership teams established a 10-year plan for our movement. This vision has four major parts:
Open the front door to see more churches started, disciples multiplied and missionaries sent out.
Close the back door to develop more healthy, growing churches and leaders.
Tear down the walls to expand our cultural diversity and address racial barriers to advance the gospel.
Build the house to increase collaboration and resources needed to start and strengthen more churches.
Over the next five years, the Converge movement is trusting God for a season of significant expansion through church planting. We want to start new churches together to see more people meet, know and follow Jesus. During the past year, our district and national leaders have worked diligently to raise awareness and prepare our churches for this push. Through great effort, they have evaluated and improved our systems to ensure that in the areas of recruitment, assessment, coaching, training and funding we can handle such an endeavor.
How you can get involved
The church is not a building you sit in. It is a movement you choose to be a part of.
Whether you’re a lay leader, nurse, businessman, student, pastor or missionary, you have a part to play in Converge’s 10-year vision. We ask you to commit to pray for God’s wisdom, courage and favor so that many people around the world will meet, know and follow Jesus.
We also ask that you prayerfully commit to these challenges:
Each one reach one. Our prayer is each person will engage with non-Christians, who will eventually place their faith in Christ and be baptized.
Each one raise one. Our prayer is each person would disciple someone, and each leader will raise up other leaders to expand our movement.
Each one start one. We pray each church will be used by God to start new congregations through church planting or multiplying.
Each one send one. We pray each congregation will enjoy the blessing of regularly sending missionaries to the work God is doing around the world.
God has blessed us. He designed us to live for something bigger than ourselves. We are better together, and the best is still to come. And we invite you to join us.
Michael Smith serves as Converge’s content specialist. He has nearly two decades in the newspaper publishing industry. Michael worked as a copy editor and designer for the Tampa Tribune for more than a dozen years, and has also been a member of the editorial staff of Florida Baptist Witness and other publications across the Southeast.