In the coming weeks the
Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) begins an effort to help local
churches develop a missions strategy that connects them locally and globally
for effective, long-term impact ministry. To do this, the Office of Great Commission
Partnerships (GCP) will focus on creating global impact networks, developing
young leaders and equipping pastors as missions strategists.
The BSC Executive Committee
approved formation of the new office during its July 15 meeting in Cary. Mike
Sowers, who has served with North Carolina Baptist Men since 2007 as youth missions
consultant, has been named senior consultant for the Office of Great Commission
“Six billion people in the
world do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s easy to see
that as an overwhelming, unobtainable goal,” Sowers said. “I see it as
opportunity, and our Great Commission partnerships as opportunities to help
North Carolina Baptist churches start reaching people here and around the
The Office of Great
Commission Partnerships will work toward helping churches understand the
importance of creating a holistic, comprehensive missions strategy. “Such a
strategy is one that helps create a missional DNA in the local church so that
missions extends beyond short term involvement. An effective missional strategy
creates the urgency of radical commitment to penetrating lostness in the
nations of the world, North America and North Carolina with the gospel of Jesus
Christ,” Sowers said.
Outlining a comprehensive
missions strategy helps a church focus on the purpose of missions.
“We need a
strategy because we need vision,” Sowers said. “We want North Carolina Baptists
to invest their energy into a vision they create that will ultimately result in
an ongoing missions mindset for the entire church.”
A major factor in
determining where the BSC will establish future partnerships is whether or not
the area is unreached or underserved. Unreached areas, those essentially void
of any evangelical witness, and underserved areas, those with a limited access
to the Gospel due to a lack of healthy sustainable churches, are top on the
partnership priority list.
Sowers hopes churches will
gain a greater sense of responsibility for missions as they develop a missions
strategy. “We tend to pass off the responsibility of the Great Commission to
someone else. When Jesus stood on the mountain and said ‘Go’ He commissioned
everyone, the individual and the church,” Sowers said. “We cannot pass the ball
to a state convention or national entity to do the work for the church. But it
is our role as a Convention to help equip people to live out the Great
N.C. Baptist Men and Great
BSC partnerships, formerly
under the supervision and coordination of Richard Brunson, who also serves as
Executive Director of North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM), will now be managed
through the Office of Great Commission Partnerships. Because Brunson has led
both efforts, there has been an almost synonymous view of NCBM and BSC
partnerships. In order for mission partnerships to continue effective growth
and expansion, Brunson and Chuck Register, Executive Leader for Church Planting
and Missions Development, agreed that a restructuring needed to take place.
NCBM will still continue
their work in partnership missions, involving a wide array of mission projects,
just as they have for nearly 30 years. NCBM coordinate partnerships
domestically, such as Pennsylvania, Vermont and the recent coalfields ministry
in the Appalachian region. They also coordinate partnerships around the world,
such as Honduras, Ukraine, Armenia and Kenya.
The partnership in India has
resulted in 500 wells being provided to villages with no access to clean
drinking water. So far this year about 350 volunteers have served in Haiti, a
partnership that will continue for several more years.
In 2011, a partnership will
begin in Guatemala. Richard Brunson, NCBM Executive Director, said Guatemala is
just one of the new partnerships N.C. Baptist Men looks to start in the next
Brunson described the NCBM
approach to partnership missions as project-driven. “Most people learn by
doing. We believe you start with doing – you don’t start with education. If you
can get people personally involved in missions it will change their lives,”
Brunson said. “Then they will want to learn about missions and give to missions
and pray about missions.”
The project-driven approach
provides that opportunity for an individual to see firsthand what missions is
about. “You have to start with their heart,” Brunson said. “That starts with
Brunson said the
strategy-driven approach of the GCP office will be a great resource for pastors
who want to be a missions strategist in their church. However, Brunson said he
understands that not all pastors have the time to invest in this type of
strategy, nor do they feel comfortable taking on this type of role. For those
pastors, NCBM will continue helping them find ways to get involved in missions
through mission projects at home and around the world.
NCBM and the GCP office are
not attempting to duplicate their mission efforts. Both the project and
strategy approach are necessary when it comes to helping North Carolina
Baptists be as effective in ministry as possible. The new office will serve as
a means of expansion for both approaches, giving more North Carolina Baptists
more opportunities than ever before to be on mission.
“As a local church begins to
develop a missions strategy, key projects will need to be addressed, and we
will look to NCBM for input in that area,” Sowers said.
Global Impact Networks
Foundational to the Office
of Great Commission Partnerships is developing Global Impact Networks. “These
networks will serve as points of connection for local congregations to partner
with other congregations, the BSC, the North American Mission Board (NAMB),
International Mission Board (IMB) and other evangelical groups,” Sowers said.
“We are doing so much work independently of one another and independently of
entities like NAMB and the IMB. If we can begin to coordinate our efforts and
work together we stand a greater chance of having a long-lasting, global
GCP wants to hear from North
Carolina Baptists about where they are serving and where they want to serve. Sowers
is planning several interest meetings across the state for anyone interesting
in Global Impact Networks. More information about the meetings will be posted
soon at the Convention’s web site.
Prior to the Convention’s
annual meeting in November a web page will be available at the Convention’s web
site for North Carolina Baptists to submit information about their current
mission efforts and vision for future mission partnerships. The GCP office will
then use this information to help connect congregations.
Next Generation Leadership
GCP is also developing a
three-year plan to help high school students become the next generation of
Each year, beginning in fall
2011, 20 North Carolina Baptist students will begin a missional journey that
will involve: teaching from pastors, missionaries and mission strategists,
interactive web-based discussion and accountability groups; and a hands-on
summer missions experience with church planters, urban strategists and
missionaries serving in unreached and underserved areas of the nations.
“Jesus taught the masses,
but He mentored in a smaller group. We want to get serious about discipling
students. If we don’t, teenagers may hear about Jesus and go on a mission trip,
but they won’t really understand their part in the Great Commission or be
equipped to fulfill it,” Sowers said.
In the first year of the
Next Generation Missional Journey students will learn about the responsibility
of the Great Commission and church planting and spend the summer serving in
North Carolina. The second year focuses on North America and the underserved,
the third year on the unreached and the ends of the earth.
Pastors as Missions
Another component of GCP is
developing local church pastors as missions strategists. Sowers said a missions
strategist is one who can “read the spiritual landscape of the community and
then develop a strategic plan to reach underserved/unreached in that specific
community, as well as in the state, nation and world.”
Todd Marlow, pastor of
Westmoreland Baptist Church in Charlotte and chair of the BSC Church Planting
and Missions Development Committee, said this component has the potential to
greatly benefit pastors as they figure out how to be on mission in their
community. “One of the things that is lacking in churches is the emphasis on
being an Acts 1:8 church. We often forget our mission field in our own
Jerusalem,” he said.
When to get out
Included in a holistic
strategy are well-defined, measurable goals, which provide a good measuring
stick for signaling when it is time to end one partnership and begin another.
GCP will assist churches in learning how to define their goals and how to plan
an exit strategy when it comes to various partnerships in which they participate.
Mark Harris, pastor of First
Baptist Church in Charlotte, said coming up with an exit strategy has been one
of the biggest challenges for his congregation. “You feel a certain sense of
responsibility in starting something and then can’t let it go,” he said. Yet,
partnerships should aim to bring about a change that “reproduces itself,”
Harris said, meaning leaders in the state or country where the partnership
takes place are trained and equipped to carry on the ministry themselves.
Without an exit strategy
people become dependent on partnerships and are not prepared to multiply
ministry where they are. “Partnerships are just the catalyst for the work,”
For more information about
the Office of Great Commission Partnerships contact Sowers at [email protected] or (800)