Board of Directors hear how to reach internationals now living in North Carolinaby Mike Creswell
Most North Carolina Baptists know that people from around the world now live in the state.
But where are they, and how can they be reached with the gospel?
Chuck Register laid out answers to both those questions in a report to the Baptist State Convention's Board during its meeting Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at Fort Caswell. Register is executive leader for Church Planting and Mission Partnerships.
Register showed maps identifying where 22 clusters of internationals live in the Charlotte area, 15 in the Triad/Greensboro and 41 in the Triangle/Raleigh-Durham areas, a total of 78 groups.
He painted a stark picture of their lostness.
"Here is a pocket of people, a residential group of people, clustered together and they're from points in the world and cultures in the world, many of whom have never heard the message of Jesus Christ.
"They've never heard of the cross. They've never heard of the resurrection. They've never heard of sin and repentance. They've never heard that there is life only in Jesus Christ," he said.
Register said his office has been gathering demographic data for the study throughout 2014 and is to the point of reaching final conclusions. The study pinpoints where groups of people from East Asia, Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa live, he said.
More importantly, the clusters include people who are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, animist and other non-Christian religions. "They are in the state all around us," he said.
"That's 78 places in these three metro areas where this morning we need to engage these unreached people with the message of Jesus Christ, and move to plant a New Testament church. Ladies and gentlemen, our task is great in the state of North Carolina. We have a responsibility to engage these people groups with the gospel," Register declared.
To help Baptists move to engage these clusters, Register said the state convention will make available 10 interns comprised of former Southern Baptist missionaries who have served overseas as Journeymen or International Service Corps workers and are now students studying at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary at Wake Forest, NC.
They have the language skills and the world view needed to engage these internationals, he said. They will work alongside churches and help leaders and members deermine how to reach the groups.
The Baptist State Convention will provide a stipend to the missionary partners for the first semester; the partnering churches will be expected to provide the stipend for the second semester, he said.
Beyond North Carolina, Register presented plans to help North Carolina Baptists engage with similar unreached people groups in Boston, New York City and Toronto, cities already a focus of work by the convention's office of Great Commission Partnerships (GCP). Thousands of North Carolina Baptists have gone to these three areas to help with evangelism and church planting over recent years.
His office is available to set up vision trips for pastors and church leaders to one of these cities to explore possibilities for Kingdom impact.
Board President Michael Barrett told the board how Pleasant Garden Baptist Church, where he serves as pastor, has begun to reach people from Nepal in the Greensboro area. A vision trip to New York by his church's associate pastor two years ago helped open the church identify the challenge, Barrett said.
Barrett said he and leaders from four other Greensboro area churches went on an eye-opening trip to New York earlier this year. On that trip they saw a store which actually sold different gods representing several religions. "Who wants a god that you can buy?" one pastor's wife asked.
"I'm thankful I have a God who bought me with the precious blood of the Lamb," Barrett said.
Out of this experience, Barrett said a five-church team has been organized who will share people and resources to reach unreached people groups in both the Greensboro and New York City areas. Two other churches might be joining them.
"We could make a small dent alone, but together I believe we will make a big dent" in lostness, he said.
Register also requested prayer for a missions trip to an Asian nation closed to the gospel to be made by members of two North Carolina Baptist churches during November.
He said volunteers will build a guest house which will become a platform and base of operations for future volunteer teams who will engage eight unreached people groups in that country. "We will make a tremendous impact for the gospel," he said.
Two students from Fruitland Baptist Bible College will go on this trip, the first students in a new scholarship program which will set aside $10,000 annually to help Fruitland students serve overseas and experience impacting lostness firsthand.
"This will make a difference in the lives of these Fruitland students
for a lifetime," Register said.
In 2015 the GCP office will begin identifying unreached people groups in Fayetteville and Greenville, two more of the eight major population centers in the state. The goal is to teach associational leaders and others how to do the people group mapping in their own areas, in order to lead churches to engage with the lost.