Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The College at Southeastern have launched a Kingdom Diversity Missions Initiative to encourage minorities to become more involved in Great Commission work around the world.
Charles Parker, third from left, a student from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, participates with a Southeastern Seminary team engaged in community service during Crossover Columbus in 2015.
As a partnership between Southeastern’s Kingdom Diversity Initiative and its Center for Great Commission Studies, the new program offers minority students financial assistance for Southeastern mission trips along with help in preparing to go, such as raising funds and obtaining a passport. When students return from their trip, the initiative will provide a time of debrief to help students process what they have learned and apply it to God’s calling on their lives.
Seminary officials said the Kingdom Diversity Missions Initiative combines two of Southeastern’s strengths – missions and kingdom diversity – to address the reality that African, Hispanic and Asian Americans are disproportionately underrepresented on the international mission field.
Southeastern’s Center for Great Commission Studies, citing International Mission Board (IMB) data on the IMB’s 3,500 missionary personnel as of January 2017, reported that 0.44 percent of its missionary personnel were African American; 7.12 percent were Asian; and 1.7 percent were Hispanic.
Such percentages are “more alarming considering that 20 percent of all the 51,500-plus [Southern Baptist] churches and mission churches are [ethnic majority] congregations,” the Great Commission Center stated at its website, thecgcs.org.
“This is not an ‘SBC problem,’” the center stated, “since other denominations also report that minorities are underrepresented on the international mission field. This does not mean minorities are not concerned about God’s global mission, but these stats are indicative of historical and socioeconomic factors that characterize the minority experience in America.”
Walter Strickland, special adviser to the president for diversity and instructor of theology, said the Kingdom Diversity Missions Initiative “captures the heartbeat” of Southeastern.
“We recognize that every tribe, tongue and nation are not just the recipients of God’s mission, but they ought to be mobilized on mission as well,” Strickland said of the initiative’s goal to cultivate a passion for taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Scott Hildreth, director of Center for Great Commission Studies, said the KDMI addresses the need to involve the entire body of Christ in missions “because God gave the Great Commission to the whole church … including ethnic minorities who have not had opportunities or traditions of international missions to take the gospel to the nations.”
“KDMI is not just a program to send minority students on short-term mission trips, Hildreth said, although that is part of the focus.
“Our prayer is that they will lead their churches to embrace the Great Commission,” he said, “and that it will become a vital part of their lives” as a result of long-term change within ethnic churches as they equip leaders to have a global vision and involvement in local and international missions work.
KDMI can provide assistance for any international trip that Southeastern sponsors. To learn more and apply for the program, visit kingdomdiversity.sebts.edu.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Harper McKay writes for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston contributed to this story.)