Reaching the nations for Christ is a colossal task. There are 6,700 unreached people groups (UPGs) across the globe, according to The Joshua Project, but a small church in central North Carolina is leveraging its gifts and resources to make an oversized impact on UPGs in Colombia, South America.
Four years ago, Moncure Baptist Church (MBC) in Moncure, N.C., began to feel a burden for reaching unreached peoples. Today, they are engaging at least three UPGs with the gospel and looking forward to their second church plant among rural, Colombian natives.
As John Howard, one of MBC’s two co-pastors, explains how the congregation of around 30 adults manages to support extensive missions involvement with a modest $50,000 annual budget, it’s hard not to compare the church to the undersized giant-slayer of the Old Testament.
“We just take what He gives us and do the best that we can with it,” said Howard in a phone interview with the Biblical Recorder.
Fifty percent of the church budget goes directly to missions. To help achieve that goal, neither Howard nor Matt Garrett, MBC’s other co-pastor, take a salary.
The congregation allocates $500 per member each year to help alleviate the missions cost on individuals, but the church has never needed to utilize that portion of their funds. Teams have been able to cover the cost of each trip as the needs arise.
“Somehow when they volunteer to go, God provides,” said Howard. “And it isn’t just our church. We’ll get checks from people out of the blue, saying ‘I feel like God was telling me to send this to you. Use it for your UPG project or something.’
“It’s amazing. … When you say, ‘Here we are, send us,’ God doesn’t ask you to come with money in your hand. He just says, ‘I need you to be hands and feet, and I’ll do what I want with you.’”
Approximately 30 percent of the congregation is actively involved in international missions. MBC teams partner with other small churches in North Carolina and Virginia to take four short-term trips per year to Colombia.
When MBC first began to look for ways to engage the international mission field, they were unsure how to proceed. Through its Embrace initiative, the International Mission Board (IMB) connected the church with a missionary in Colombia, who helped them develop a plan to do the one thing they were sure about – reaching unreached people with the gospel.
Howard said, “That was the burden on our heart.”
After sending a team to Colombia to discover more about mission efforts in the country, they prayed for two months, asking God how they could reach Colombian UPGs, such as the Katio-Embera and Zenu peoples. Before long they received a message from the local missionary: “I’ve figured it out! God showed me what you can do that will help us a lot. Teach English to school teachers in rural communities where these indigenous people live. It would open doors for us.”
Howard said the news was exciting, but he admitted, “We don’t know how to do that.”
MBC had never organized English-as-a-second-language (ESL) missions before, but the church continued to pray and expressed willingness to learn. The IMB coordinated a team from Washington, D.C. to train MBC and model how to do ESL missions in Colombia.
Caleb Bridges, a missions consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, said, “Because of [MBC’s] partnership, there are now believers worshiping our God in the Zenu, Katio-Embera and Tule languages. Prior to the Spirit of God leading them to this work, there were no believers among these groups and no churches in any of their villages.
“If a church of this size can do what God is empowering them to do, then any church of any size can in the same way be obedient to partner with Christ through the Holy Spirit for the spread of the gospel among the unreached peoples of the world.”
MBC also partners with their local association to help support missions and church planting efforts in Maryland through the North American Mission Board’s SEND Baltimore initiative.
In addition, the church is facing the global task of sharing the gospel with all nations in places closer to home. MBC is currently exploring ways to engage the Hispanic population in Chatham County.
Census and immigration data shows more than 11,000 Colombian natives live in the state. Howard said it presents MBC with a new opportunity because a handful of members speak Spanish.
“If God is bringing those kinds of people together, what are we going to do with them?” he asked. “What is He doing by bringing those people in our way? We have to be attentive to that.
“It may mean [God’s] got something for us in the local Hispanic community.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Moncure Baptist Church co-pastors John Howard and Matthew Garrett will be joining a panel discussion hosted by Zac Lyons on Nov. 15 during a breakout session of the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). The session is titled “Becoming a Missional Church.” Lyons serves as the BSC Great Commission Partnerships Consultant. Visit ncannualmeeting.org for more details.)