Old Town Baptist narrows in on ‘unbroken ground’
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
July 06, 2011

Old Town Baptist narrows in on ‘unbroken ground’

Old Town Baptist narrows in on ‘unbroken ground’
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
July 06, 2011

In the area known as the outskirts live the tribal groups, who

tend to be animistic and somewhat open to the gospel.

The majority of the population, which practices Buddhism and

is highly resistant to the gospel, lives in the central plains and river valley


Mark Harrison moved his fingers across the map, pointing out

each region. Colored stones outline the different areas. The map is a gift from

friends living in Southeast Asia.

Old Town Baptist Church, where Harrison has served as

missions pastor for three years, is considering adopting an unengaged, unreached

people group (UUPG) living in Southeast Asia. The specific people group they

are praying about lives in a country that is 89 percent Buddhist; less than .07

percent of this people group is evangelical.

Whereas an unreached people group (UPG) has a negligible

percentage of Christian believers, the UUPG is essentially void of any

evangelical witness and is less than two percent evangelical. About 3,800 UUPGs

live throughout the world.

Harrison believes the church is close

to selecting the people group they will adopt. He is praying that their vision

trip next month to Southeast Asia will bring even more


“We’re praying that if this is what God wants us to do He

will affirm that while we’re there,” Harrison said. “I

don’t know what that affirmation will look like. But I do know that God will

affirm His will through the body. It needs to be the church body taking

responsibility for this.”

Old Town

is already further along on their journey than they were just a few months ago.

If there’s one thing Harrison has learned in recent

months about how to adopt an unreached people group, it’s to start at home.

“This process starts where you already are. You don’t have

to go out and look for something else. Just look at the connections God has

already established for you,” he said.

Several years ago during an International Mission Board

(IMB) regional meeting Harrison met a missionary from Southeast Asia,

from the country where Old Town

is praying about adopting a people group. Since Harrison

already had planned a mission trip to that region, he extended his trip in

order to visit the missionary and learn more about the work being done in that


Harrison and the missionary continued to keep in touch. Last

year, Harrison and Jason Ledford, pastor of families and discipleship, traveled

overseas to help the missionary lead evangelism training.

As the partnership continued, conversations turned to

adopting a people group. And as it turns out, one of the UUPGs in the

missionary’s country has refugees from a related people group living in

Winston-Salem. Through a local refugee ministry, members of Old

Town have already been ministering

to these refugees.

Harrison said whichever people group

they adopt, their goal is to create local, national and international points of

connection. While they want to minister to members of this people group living

in their homeland overseas, they also want to minister to refugees living in North

Carolina, North America and

throughout the world.

Harrison is helping the congregation

start to think more in terms of “engaging” a people group and not just

“adopting” them.

“We want to be hands-on involved in making sure that this

people group hears the gospel and that there are sufficient opportunities for

them to respond to the gospel,” he said. “For us, missions is demonstrating and

verbalizing the gospel so that people can respond to Jesus’ invitation to

follow Him. We want to be very intentional.”

Reaching an UUPG of any size is going to require cooperation

among churches. “I don’t have any illusions we’re going to reach them alone,”

Harrison said. He prays that however God leads, whether to this country in Southeast

Asia or somewhere else, that Old

Town would help bring together

other churches for the sake of reaching an UUPG.

Old Town

is ready to follow Paul’s example in Romans 15:17 of “going into that unbroken

ground where the light has not penetrated,” Harrison

said. They want their efforts of serving among unreached people to result in

new believers who are discipled and trained to reach their own people.

Although Old Town

is still in the process of selecting an UUPG, excitement about what is to come

is already building, due in large part to efforts from church leaders to keep

this a priority before the congregation.

From worship services to Sunday School classes to small

groups, repetition is key.

Harrison joked that whenever he

speaks to the congregation they already know he’s going to say something about


“If they don’t know what you’re going to say, you probably

haven’t said it enough,” he said. “You have to oversaturate people.”

While adopting a people group is a good thing, Harrison

doesn’t want Old Town’s

missions efforts to end there. He sees this as a way to help build a stronger missions

mindset into the congregation.

“Our church has a long history of mission involvement, which

has grown through Pastor Rick’s leadership. Yet, on this continuing journey, we

are still growing in our understanding of and obedience to God’s call,” Harrison


Rick Speas, Old Town’s

pastor, is excited about all God is allowing the church to be part of for His


“As I see more and more of our church members becoming

active in going, praying and giving to God’s mission, I am extremely humbled,” Speas


“We are eagerly anticipating whatever God is going to do

next, and we are excited to be on this journey with Him for the heart of the

nations. I sense that God is doing here what He did in Antioch

when He placed a burden for the nations upon the leaders, and then they sent a

team out to go and preach the gospel.”

Harrison didn’t expect the stronger

missionary mindset to blossom as quickly as it has. Take, for example,

dedicated deacon and Sunday School teacher Ray Grantham.

Grantham is a faithful missions supporter. He supported

calling a missions pastor instead of an associate pastor because he wanted to

see the church focus turn more outward.

He always encourages others to go and serve in missions, but

in his 19 years at Old Town,

never really thought about going himself. “I was a great missionary spectator,”

he said. “I was comfortable that I was doing my fair share.”

In helping the church prepare for this people group

engagement process, the church staff encouraged small groups to read David

Platt’s Radical.

“You shouldn’t read it … but you should,” Grantham said.

It’s a book that asks the hard questions and makes readers

seriously evaluate life’s priorities.

The book talks about not just raising money and encouraging

others to go so we don’t have to — which Grantham said hit close to home.

Grantham is excited about Old

Town adopting a people group

because it’s an opportunity for the entire church body to participate in one

way or another.

This year Grantham will join the Southeast Asia

team for his first ever mission trip.

This year, beginning next month, this lawyer is committing

to take time off from the law firm every Friday so he can be involved in

missions in the community.

“I’m going to put my stake in the ground in 2011 and just go

do it,” Grantham said. “We’re called to make ourselves available.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — This is the second article in a series

following Old Town Baptist’s journey in adopting a people group. Visit imb.org

to learn more about people groups that need to hear the gospel.)

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W-S church prepares to adopt