Office focuses on strategy, missional leadership
    August 18 2010 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

    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 Partnerships.

    “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 world.”

    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 Commission.”  

    N.C. Baptist Men and Great Commission Partnerships
    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 few years.

    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 the project.”

    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 impact.”

    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 Development
    GCP is also developing a three-year plan to help high school students become the next generation of mission leaders. 

    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 Strategists
    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,” Sowers said.

    For more information about the Office of Great Commission Partnerships contact Sowers at or (800) 395-5102.
    8/18/2010 6:36:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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