As a means of helping people see the various roles involved in people group discovery and engagement, I plan to periodically interview practitioners. These people will come from a variety of places (state conventions, sending agencies, research organizations, and of course local churches) as we look at all the ways people can be involved. Let’s walk a mile in their shoes.
Today, I am interviewing Caleb Bridges (name changed) who works for a Baptist state convention that is very involved in people group work. State conventions can play an important role in discovering and engaging people groups, if their focus is serving the local church in its mission to these people. But, I will let Caleb tell you about that.
What exactly is your role working with people groups at the state convention?
I am contracted with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina as a People Group Engagement Catalyst. Essentially, I help local NC churches as they discover and engage unreached people groups from around the world who have migrated here and are now calling North Carolina cities their new home. I have a four prong focus in my efforts to help the local church: (1) educate the people of North Carolina on the need; (2) advocate for reaching the unreached from around the world, now living in our cities; (3) train members of local churches to be the ones who discover and reach the unreached in their own cities; and (4) facilitate the efforts of local churches as they engage the unreached people group populations in their communities.
With all of these international people groups moving to our cities, what should we as Christians do?
First, we should recognize and glory in the sovereignty of God. By his sovereign hand, he has brought them here “so that they might seek him, feel their way towards him and find him” (Acts 17:27). Second, we must pray that he would use their being here to bring about salvation to all nations. Third, we ought to seize this amazing opportunity to make the gospel known to these people! It is our responsibility, as the church, to ensure that they hear the gospel so that the glory of our God be spread throughout all peoples.
How does the state convention play a part in that?
Ultimately, the responsibility of the Great Commission rests on the shoulders of the local church. The church is God’s chosen means of making disciples of all ethne, fulfilling the Great Commission and spreading his glory throughout the whole earth. The BSCNC is the servant of the local church as they accomplish the mission of God in the world by impacting lostness through disciple-making. We provide assistance to churches in developing and implementing sustainable strategies that intentionally proclaim the gospel to all ethne here in North Carolina and around the world.
How does the local church play a part in that?
There is no differentiation between the mission of God and the mission of the church in the world. It is the means through which God is establishing his kingdom on the earth. Every local church (like every Christian) is responsible for making disciples of all nations. Every local church must have a mission strategy that is actively and intentionally reaching the nations both here and there. Honestly, if the church doesn’t do it, who will?
What are some suggestions you have for local churches or believers who want to get involved in this type of ministry?
First, examine yourself. Do we have humble hearts towards those who are different than us? Are we willing to look past our own preferences and prejudices for the sake of their hearing the gospel? Are we willing to be learners of their culture, language, and way of life? Are we willing to go to them, rather than expect them to come to us?
Second, pray. Begin to pray for the peoples who live in your city and around the world. Walk the streets of diverse areas of your city and pray for the salvation of the people you see. Ask the Lord to send out laborers into the harvest fields and to raise up laborers from within the harvest!
Third, make a new friend. Go, meet someone in your own neighborhoods who is of another people group. Begin building that friendship. Be regular. Genuinely love your neighbor from another part of the world. Serve them. As you build these friendships, be willing to learn and be served by them.
Fourth, practice gospel hospitality. Have your new international friends over to your home for a meal, or be invited into there home (for some cultures, you cannot give them a greater gift than being a guest in their home). As you share your life with them, share the truth of the gospel in culturally appropriate ways.
Fifth, develop a church wide strategy for discovering and engaging people group communities in your city. If you need help figuring out what that looks like, the Baptist State Convention of NC is here to help. Contact us through the following means–firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are the hurdles?
Five hurdles we will have to overcome are: fear, pride, apathy, personal preferences and prejudice. We are afraid of our Muslim neighbor. Our pride is so great that we refuse to be served. Apathy rules our hearts. We care primarily for ourselves and refuse to make sacrifices in our lives for the sake of the gospel. In fact, why would we make sacrifices for ‘those illegal immigrants’ who just need to be deported or ‘those Muslims’ who must all be terrorists. Ultimately, I think the strongest impediment to reaching the nations God has brought to be our new neighbors is… well, us.