January 2014 marked the beginning of the implementation of the new five-year strategy of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC): “Impacting Lostness through Disciple-Making.” The strategy calls for churches to penetrate darkness through disciple-making in North Carolina and around the world.
In North Carolina, that involves engaging the estimated 5.8 million lost people in the state with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“That is a big number,” said Russ Conley, BSC team leader for the Strategic Focus Team. “It’s a hard number for me to even conceptualize.”
The strategy calls attention to lostness across the entire state. The strategy challenges churches across the entire state to engage the concentrated areas of lostness.
The Strategic Focus Team is taking a lead role in assisting churches and associations in the eight population centers of North Carolina fulfill the strategy.
The eight population centers include Asheville (Blue Ridge), Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greenville, Hickory (Unifour), Wilmington (Coastal), the Triad area (Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point) and the Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill).
Research has identified the eight population centers as having the most concentrated number of lost people in the state. The Strategic Focus Team is currently comprised of seven strategy coordinators who are assigned to seven of the eight population centers.
Strategy coordinators work with associational missionaries, local pastors, lay leaders, leaders of ethnic and cultural people groups and others to develop strategies to impact lostness tailored to local areas.
“They are catalysts for the local areas and churches to hopefully motivate, equip and resource them to reach the unreached and unengaged people groups in their areas,” Conley said. “They are there to raise the flag to say ‘Here’s a group. Who will accept responsibility for reaching this group and planting the gospel and making disciples?’”
Just the beginning
Less than six months into imple-mentation, the strategy is progressing as designed. During this early phase, the coordinators are primarily in the mode of discovery.
“We are learning a lot in terms of who is living among us and who needs the gospel,” Conley said. “Each of the population centers is progressing in its own direction and at its own pace.” The strategy coordinators are also assessing where and how churches in their areas are currently reaching the lost.
“As the strategy coordinators are talking with people and moving throughout the population center, they are seeing instances where God is already at work,” Conley said.
The coordinators will use the data they collect during the next phase of the strategy, which is to assist in the development of comprehensive and strategic disciple-making plans based upon identified needs and priorities.
Until then, the Strategic Focus Team will continue to gather information, build relationships with pastors and associational missionaries and raise awareness of the depths of lostness and the need for disciple-making.
“We need to elevate the awareness of lostness in North Carolina, and we need to elevate the understanding of disciple-making as the means of advancing the Kingdom by pushing back lostness,” Conley said.
A team effort
Michael Boarts, strategy coordinator for the Fayetteville population center, said he has been encouraged during his first months in the field by the willingness of everyone, including BSC colleagues, pastors and directors of missions, to work together as a team.
“From the beginning there has been a feeling of being in this together,” he said. “Having that team spirit centered on God; I think that is what it should be.”
Boarts said that while 5.8 million lost people is an important statistic, it is just as important for every believer to understand they have a personal responsibility to engage in disciple-making.
“My challenge is for every North Carolina Baptist to count how many people they have discipled,” he said. “Too many believers have never discipled anyone.”
He said the fulfillment of the strategy will require North Carolina Baptists to take an honest assessment of their disciple-making efforts and commit to making disciples.
“If we are not going to look and honestly admit that we’ve been failing at making disciples then we’ll never get anywhere,” he said.
“If we can get every North Carolina Baptist to be discipled and to disciple someone else, who knows what God can do with that.”
For more information about the BSC five-year strategy, visit ncbaptist.org/strategy.