Mapping people groups across the state
    January 26 2015 by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor

    “Who do you bank with? The bank I’m with has an ATM screen that offers a choice of eight languages. … It’s the banking industry that understands that the world is moving to North Carolina, but the question is, ‘Do North Carolina Baptists know the world is moving to North Carolina?’” said Steve Hardy, a contract worker in the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) church planting and missions partnerships group.
    He said, “The mapping project is an opportunity for us to find out how much the world has moved to North Carolina, where they live, and begin to accept responsibility that the Great Commission has always started in Jerusalem and Judea.”
    More than 1,700 points of interest (POI) and 137 people groups exist in North Carolina. A point of interest is any kind of ethnic establishment, such as a fabric shop, a local business, a grocery store, a mosque or an apartment complex.
    “We are ready … to engage 52 of those people groups … in some type of church planting or ministry with them,” said Caleb Bridges*, an ethnographic anthropologist researcher for the BSC. When the BSC began identifying the 250 high-density pockets of lostness in the state, the mapping project became the foundation for the convention’s strategy of impacting lostness through disciple-making.
    By the end of 2015, the mapping project will be underway in all eight largest population centers of the state: The Asheville, Hickory, Triad, Triangle, Fayetteville, Charlotte-Metro, Greenville, and Wilmington regions. 
    In the mapping process, Bridges interacts with local businesses, shops and everyday citizens to discover POI, which he then uses to generate a map. While looking for districts or clusters of ethnic people in an area, he builds relationships with them by asking simple questions about their life. Possible points of engagement evolve from the process.
    The BSC wants to learn more about the non-English speaking and diverse ethnicities across the state. Even though the number of points of interest and unreached people groups (UPGs) grow daily, 638 POI and 36 UPGs were discovered in the Triangle; 279 POI and 23 UPGs in the Triad; and 592 POI and 32 UPGs in the Charlotte-Metro area.
    The 2010 U.S. Census Bureau reported that 74.79 percent (7.1 million) of North Carolinians live in eight metropolitan areas of the state with 77.82 percent (1.7 million) of non-Anglo North Carolinians living in these eight areas.
    Hardy noted that people groups generally want to be befriended. “[This] is what North Carolina Baptists are good at – just being friendly,” he said. “If you will take the time to let them tell you their story, eventually they’ll ask you to tell your story.”

    Engaging communities with the gospel

    Based on the mapping data, “we are able to sit down with a church and say, ‘Here is a people group, here is their location within the city, and we can also help you with worldview understanding … for points of engagement,’” said Chuck Register, BSC’s executive leader for church planting and missions. 
    He added, “We now have a responsibility to engage these 52 UPGs with the gospel of Christ.
    “To know [UPGs] are present, to know where they are and to not engage them with the gospel ... becomes sin on our behalf.”
    Some ways churches might engage their communities may begin with teaching English as a second language, helping immigrants in initial relocation, helping them secure a doctor or helping them adjust to American culture, said Register.
    “There are a multitude of methodologies, but what [the convention] want[s] to do … is suggest methodologies, not dictate methodologies to the local church. It’s the local church’s responsibility to engage these people with the gospel, but we want to come along and assist them.”
    This is very biblical, said Hardy.
    “We’re looking at what God is doing among us and asking ourselves the question: ‘What is our appropriate response?’ The gospel must go forth beginning right here. … I think God is moving the world here so that North Carolina Baptists develop more of a heart for the world.”
    “In my experience, as churches have reached out to people groups moving to North Carolina, God begins to break [churches’] hearts for people groups. And through that it begins to break their heart for the world,” he emphasized.
    Many of the people coming to North Carolina are refugees.
    Hardy said, “In Winston-Salem, there is a people group called the Kareni, and we have watched people reach out to them. … These are people who before they got on their first airplane to come to America were living in huts in the middle of the jungle. … We must be willing to walk beside them, and it is a time-consuming thing, by the way. … As we welcome people, it becomes an opportunity to build relationships, … [which] leads to the opportunity to share the gospel.”
    Register noted that all churches need boldness, courage and faith to “step forward and engage an unreached people group in their community.”
    Once Bridges and churches engage with various points of interest, they load their information to
    This is an initiative of the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board (IMB).

    The heart of this website is the collection of accurate, relevant and strategic information that is shared with Southern Baptists and other Great Commission partners.
    This website and the BSC can help churches collaborate together as they seek local unreached people groups. The goal, said Bridges, is to build deeper relationships with a people group for the purposes of gospel proclamation, Bible studies and ultimately, church planting.
    The convention plans to host one-day training seminars that will train churches how to do people group mapping in their communities.
    For more information, call the office of the Great Commission Partnerships at (800) 395-5102, ext.5536.

    Also, IMB is hosting a people group discovery and engagement workshop March 30-April 1 at the Baptist building in Cary. For more information or to register, visit,

    *Names Changed

    1/26/2015 4:06:45 PM by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments
    Filed under: BSC, evangelism, North Carolina

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