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

    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 approach.

    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 involved.

    “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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    3/18/2011 11:46:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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