Having a heart like Jesus and the eyes of a missionary are two keys to reaching the people around us who don’t know Christ.
That’s the approach that Steve Harris of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) Strategic Focus Team encouraged members of the convention’s Board of Directors to have as they seek to engage the state’s 5.8 million lost people with the gospel.
Harris was one of several BSC staff members who provided an update on the convention’s strategy of “impacting lostness through disciple-making” during the recent Board of Director’s meeting held May 22-23 at the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell.
Harris and BSC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. challenged board members to work in their respective regions to educate and lead others to make an impact for Christ in one of the 250 concentrated pockets of lostness across the state that have been identified by the state convention.
While lost people may be found in every community across the state, BSC research has identified concentrations of lost people that have been prioritized for engagement.
A pocket of lostness is a small geographic area where at least 70 percent of the people are unchurched.
“It’s going to be a mammoth challenge to engage each of the top 100 pockets of lostness and much more of a challenge to engage the next 150,” Harris said. “The only way this can happen is if many of our leadership within the Baptist State Convention takes ownership of this calling.”
Convention officials provided updates in several areas related to progress being made in fulfillment of the strategy and also shared some resources to equip pastors and church leaders in their efforts to impact lostness.
Harris and colleague Dan Collison introduced a web-based resource called MissionInsite to board members that can be used to access demographic and other data. MissionInsite allows church leaders to map areas in their local communities and access data related to ethnic and racial diversity, religious beliefs, population trends and more.
Harris and Collison said MissionInsite provides tools that enable pastors and church leaders to analyze their communities to help them develop strategies for gospel engagement.
Mark Gray, who leads the BSC’s Church Planting Team, shared about an event his team regularly conducts called Operation Reach. The daylong event equips pastors and church leaders to identify unreached people groups in their communities through group learning and field exploration. The goal is to help church leaders see their community in a new light and help them develop a strategy for engagement.
“Context determines strategy,” Gray said. “It takes different kinds of churches to reach different kinds of people.”
Planting new churches and strengthening existing churches are two major components of the convention’s strategy.
“In the first quarter of this year, we have seen great things happen with new churches,” Hollifield said. “This is a significant part of our evangelism in our impacting lostness strategy.”
Hollifield reported that in the first quarter of 2017, the convention has already facilitated the launch of 34 new churches in the state, which have reported more than 4,000 people in attendance. Moreover, those churches have made more than 17,000 evangelistic contacts, resulting in more than 1,000 people accepting Christ as Savior.
Brian Upshaw, team leader for the BSC’s Disciple-Making Team, shared some examples of how the convention’s church health and revitalization strategies have engaged numerous churches across the state.
“We want to make sure we focus on revitalization in relationship to the Great Commission,” Upshaw said. “Evangelism and discipleship are at the heart of church revitalization.”
Upshaw said convention staff and its team of coaches, consultants and contract workers worked with more than 1,000 individuals representing 518 churches in 2016. So far in 2017, the team has had some level of consultation with 562 people representing 150 different churches.
Hollifield also shared progress that’s been made in reaching college and university students, and how N.C. Baptist churches are partnering in missions in North America and around the world.
The vision of the convention’s Collegiate Partnerships Team is that none of North Carolina’s college campus would be left without a reproducing gospel presence. Hollifield reported that the number of campuses engaged with the gospel has grown from nine in January 2014 to 48 as of May 2017, which represents an increase of 534 percent.
Additionally, Hollifield reported that 317 N.C. Baptist churches have missions partnerships in 28 of the 32 cities identified by the North American Mission Board as “Send” cities where there is great spiritual need.
The majority of those partnerships are in four cities: New York, Baltimore, Toronto and Boston.
Other churches have international partnerships. Church leaders can learn more about about global missions opportunities through one of four vision tours scheduled for this fall and winter through the BSC’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships.
Hollifield challenged board members to educate others about the convention’s strategy and encouraged them to get involved in all that God is doing across North Carolina.
“We want to educate you about what can be done in your region of this state to help more North Carolina Baptist pastors and church people recognize the needs and opportunities around them, and learn how they can make a difference in impacting lostness in this state,” Hollifield said. “I want to challenge you to become an agent of change in your region by speaking up to others, modeling for them and leading them to get in the game to make a difference where God has put you to minister in His name.”
To learn more about the BSC strategy to impact lostness through disciple-making and the work of the Strategic Focus Team in pockets of lostness, contact Russ Conley at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5557, or [email protected].