W-S church prepares to adopt
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
March 18, 2011

W-S church prepares to adopt

W-S church prepares to adopt
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
March 18, 2011

Just a few months ago, around Christmas time, pastor Rick

Speas stood before Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem and shared with

them a number that, by the time Christmas 2011 rolls around, should be at least

one less.

That number, which according to the International Mission

Board (IMB) is now 3,726, represents the number of unengaged, unreached people

groups in the world.

While an unreached people group (UPG) has a negligible

percentage of Christian believers, an unengaged, unreached people group (UUPG)

is a people group essentially void of any evangelical witness. That means 41

percent of the world’s population, or 2.8 billion, have no one to tell them

about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Old Town is making plans to adopt one of these unengaged,

unreached people groups. The church would actually consider itself “the

missionary” working to engage this people group with the gospel. Speas said

once Mark Harrison, Old Town’s missions pastor, explained to him about

unengaged, unreached people groups and the need for churches to adopt them,

making sure Old Town got involved was a “no-brainer.”

Unreached people groups

Some of the countries with the most representation of

unreached people groups include Afghanistan, Algeria, India, Iraq, Morocco,

Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey.

The IMB describes a people group as one that shares a

“common self-identity.” Language is a primary factor in determining people

groups. Other factors include a common history and customs.

The 10/40 Window, a rectangular area of North Africa, the

Middle East and Asia between 10 degrees north and 40 degrees north latitude, is

home to some of the largest unreached people groups. This geographical area is

home to the majority of Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. The top 50 least

evangelized megacities (those with a population greater than one million) are

also in the 10/40 Window.

Lasting impact

Harrison said while the church is doing many good things for

missions, they want to invest resources in what is best. “To be most effective

it’s necessary to focus our attention in a particular direction for a

concentrated period of time, so that we will see a deeper and more lasting

effect over time,” Harrison said. “We want to see maximum results.”

IMB file photo

More than 3,700 people groups are considered unengaged or unreached by the International Mission Board, including in Tibet, see above. Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem is purposely considering adopting one of the groups for a long-range partnership.

One way they will do this is by adopting an unengaged,

unreached people group. “We want to engage this group wherever they live,”

Harrison said. Old Town will engage their people group locally and build

relationships with them. They will seek to minister to members of this people

group who live throughout the state and North America, as well as minister to

them wherever they may live overseas.

Engaging in this missional strategy will help Old Town, as

Harrison said, concentrate their energy toward a specific focus in order to

have more of a “rifle than shot gun” impact; more of a laser than a searchlight


Keeping up with the needs of too many different missionaries

in too many different places can become overwhelming. The church cannot

possibly do ministry in every area of the world where every church member has a

passion to do ministry. “My role is not to be the church travel agent,”

Harrison said.

In the long run, Old Town will be more effective, and more

effective at making disciples, by focusing intently on a particular people

group and pouring their efforts into ministry among this group.

Harrison wants the congregation to “develop a heart” for the

people group they adopt. From learning the culture to learning how to pray for

them to engaging locally and internationally, the effort to adopt a people

group will not be limited to church leadership — the entire church body will be


“This will not be a vision of just a select few. We want to

build this focus into the hearts and minds of as many as possible. Twenty years

from now we hope the children in our church will still be working with this people

group,” Harrison said.

Can’t do everything

As a missions pastor Harrison knows the needs are great, and

they are many. “There are a lot of things we could do, but we can’t do

everything,” he said. “You can dabble in all kinds of things; there is a never

ending stream of requests.”

To help filter through requests, Old Town maintains a

criteria that any missions efforts they participate in, whether local,

statewide, national or international, must fit what they call the “Missional

Matrix.” This Matrix helps the church determine whether an activity is

missional. To fit the profile, the activity must be Kingdom-focused,

gospel-centered and church-based.

Kingdom-focused ministry involves God’s people in a hands-on

demonstration of God’s love by meeting physical needs, such as hunger, poverty

or sickness. Gospel-centered ministry intentionally engages people’s spiritual

needs. “The greatest need for every person is to hear the gospel. Missions is

not missions if we don’t share the message of salvation,” Harrison said.

Church-based, Harrison explained, means the goal is to

engage the local church in God’s mission so that the church multiplies. At the

same time, church members are challenged to embrace missions as a lifestyle,

outside what the local church organizes and supports.

“If all we ever do is what the church organizes, we are not

really a missional church. We hope that our church’s mission actions are

catalytic, moving people to a greater involvement in the wider mission of God,”

Harrison said. “We hope people will get involved here, and then get involved in

whatever else God is calling them to do.”

A church engaged

After Harrison and Speas met with the church leadership and

deacons, they shared the idea of adopting an unengaged, unreached people group

with the congregation. Speas said getting the congregation on board with the

vision was never a challenge because the congregation already thinks outwardly,

as Old Town has a long history of leadership dedicated to making missions a

priority in the church.

Old Town is in the education stage in their journey of

adopting a people group. They are making a concerted effort, through Sunday

School classes and other small groups, to pray for unreached people groups and

to pray about the group God would have them adopt. Church members have been

asked to pray for open hearts to recognize people groups already living among

them. Small groups are also studying David Platt’s best-selling book Radical

and thinking more about what God is doing locally and globally and how they can

be more involved.

Harrison and Speas expect to have the people group picked

out sometime this year. The process may also include leadership visiting

certain areas in the world.

“Ultimately, God will bring all this together for us,”

Harrison said. “We are trying to be obedient one step at a time.”

To learn how your church can adopt an unreached people

group, visit www.ncbaptist.org/gcp.

Related story

7 steps to adopting a people group

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