North Carolina Baptists are stepping up their missions involvement and responding to the command in scripture to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
The Board of Directors of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) has approved a recommendation that calls for the BSC to serve as a catalyst for the engagement of 250 unengaged, unreached people groups over the next 10 years by BSC churches.
While the International Mission Board (IMB) and the BSC will partner to serve as resources and connecting points, responsibility for actually engaging these groups with the gospel will reside with North Carolina Baptist churches.
“Each church involved in this effort is going to claim a specific people group and commit to seeing a church planting movement take place among that people group. Yes, this means a lot of responsibility falls to the local church. But this is the most effective, and biblical, way to engage these people groups,” said Mike Sowers, senior consultant for the BSC Office of Great Commission Partnerships (GCP).
The BSC’s primary focus will be unengaged, unreached people groups in Southeast Asia. This area will serve as the point of emphasis for training and the IMB is ready to work with North Carolina Baptist churches throughout all stages of the engagement process, from informational sessions and conference calls to vision trips and on the field training.
Although the focus is Southeast Asia, North Carolina Baptist churches are not limited to only engaging groups in this region. “This is not a partnership, but an emphasis on unreached people.
We want churches to go where God has called them and we will work to provide them with the resources they need,” Sowers said.
Through the GCP office, Sowers helps connect churches in missions partnerships in areas such as Boston; New York City; Toronto, Canada; and Moldova. He helps churches extend their missions involvement beyond a one time, short-term missions trip as they develop an effective missions strategy locally and globally.
Sowers said even though the emphasis on unengaged, unreached people is not a partnership he prays churches will still approach this opportunity with the intent to be strategic and long-term.
“We want churches to help facilitate, through prayer and mobilization, a church planting movement by multiplication. We want to see disciples making disciples within a people group,” he said. “A self-sustaining, disciple-making process should be taking place.”
Joe Dillon, IMB missional church strategist, shared during a recent “Impact Your World: Team Leader Training” event in High Point about the importance of creating self-sustaining ministry and disciple-making instead of a dependency on outside funding, volunteers or even physical structures such as church buildings. People groups cannot depend long-term on a church in America to sustain any type of church planting movement. That type of movement must be indigenous to the people group.
“Our job is to empower these people to be a disciple-making congregation. One-on-one discipleship is how we’ll saturate the culture with the gospel,” Dillon said.
Dillon also pointed out that 96 percent of mission teams from the United States travel to only two percent of lostness in the world. Engaging unreached people groups will help change that statistic and help get the gospel to more people who have never heard.
During the Southern Baptist Convention in June, the IMB made a plea for all Southern Baptist churches to embrace one of the 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups in the world. Since then, the IMB’s challenge to “embrace the ends of the earth” has come with additional training opportunities and resources to help churches get started.
The IMB has made available at imb.org small group prayer guides, worship guides, research about different people groups, and information about national “Embrace Equipping Conferences.” Two equipping conferences are being held this year, and next year the BSC will host an event May 1-2 at First Baptist Church in Charlotte.
Sowers encourages churches that want to get involved to visit the IMB website and take advantage of these resources. He also encourages churches to sign up on the IMB website to indicate that they have selected a people group, as this will allow the IMB and BSC to connect churches with resources specific to that people group.
Resources are also available at ncbaptist.org/gcp.
“As believers in Jesus Christ, we cannot be content knowing there are people in this world who will die without ever hearing the name of Jesus Christ even once,” Sowers said. “God has commissioned us to go into the world and to share the gospel, and the command was given to go everywhere. It’s disobedience not to go.” Some people groups will be harder to engage because of challenges such as travel to the country and access to the country. Some churches may need a creative platform in order to gain permission from the government to enter the country. Safety, security and logistics are all possible challenges.
“The task before us is not easy, but Jesus never said following Him would be easy,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer. “Our Savior did promise that He would be with us and would empower us to accomplish His purposes if we will be obedient and yield to His leading. I am trusting God to guide our churches as they seek to expand His Kingdom by taking the gospel to unreached and unengaged people groups.”
Hollifield said he is praying for North Carolina Baptist churches all across the state to grasp the importance, and the urgency, of what they are being asked to do. “God’s plan to redeem humanity and to get the gospel message to a dying world begins with His church. If we don’t go, these people groups may never hear about salvation through Jesus Christ,” he said.
“If they do not hear they cannot repent and trust Jesus as Savior. And if they do not repent and trust Him, the Bible says they will spend eternity in hell. We have been entrusted with the stewardship of the gospel. We cannot keep it to ourselves when people are dying and going to hell.”
Critical to the success of engaging unreached, unengaged people groups is prayer. Chuck Register, BSC executive leader for church planting and missions development, encouraged North Carolina Baptists to begin their journey of embracing a people group with prayer.
“Our destination is determined by God. He guides our path and we must be sensitive to His leading,” Register said. “We cannot depend on ourselves to accomplish this task of seeing the nations come to Christ. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit working through us can that happen. And that begins with us humbly coming before God and pleading for Him to pour out His power and grace.”
For more information about how to embrace an unengaged, unreached people group, visit ncbaptist.org/gcp.