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Local churches tap new avenues for evangelizing the unreached

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–A Southern Baptist congregation can help multiply the gospel among an unreached people group overseas — even before God has called a missionary to work there.
How? Asked Michael Wright, pastor of Covington (Va.) Baptist Church, and a participant in the Southern Baptist International Mission Board’s seventh annual Creative Access Networks (CAN) Conference May 27-29 in Richmond, Va.
Eighteen months ago, Wright led his church to “adopt” an unreached people group through the International Mission Board. The congregation committed to pray for the evangelization of a little-known ethnic minority in India.
“When we started, all we knew was the name of the group,” Wright told the nearly 75 attendees of the CAN conference, designed to help Southern Baptist congregations get more personally involved in global missions.
For nearly a year, church members prayed God would call out someone to serve as a missionary among the group. A few weeks ago, Wright got word that a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., had made a commitment to become the IMB strategy coordinator targeting the tribe.
“When I announced to the church that God had answered their request, it was like electricity going through our congregation,” Wright said.
In July, the new strategy coordinator will meet his prayer supporters at Covington Baptist — where a large banner displays the name of the people group as a prayer reminder.
Covington, however, is just one example of how God has used Southern Baptist congregations to take the gospel to people who have never heard it before.
Almost three years ago, members of Westside Baptist Church, Gainesville, Fla., adopted an unreached people group in Asia. Since then, God has created an extensive network of relationships linking the church with other Christians who are trying to reach this group, Julie George, the church’s evangelism coordinator, told CAN conference participants.
So far, Westside has sent prayerwalkers and medical volunteers to areas where members of this people group live. During a medical project led by Westside volunteers, several people accepted Christ.
Later, Westside members learned that an immigrant from this group — a believer living in California — had returned to his home village in Asia and found an evangelical church there. During his stay he led another 100 people to Christ. The village? The one where Westside medical volunteers had prayed and worked earlier.
“Our strategy is to follow the Lord’s leading and make sure we’re doing what he wants us to do,” said George. “And once we follow the basic principles of obedience and perseverance, it’s always so evident that Almighty God is at work — even when we had no clue what he was doing when we started.”
That approach is right in line with the missions strategy recorded in the New Testament Book of Acts, said Henry Blackaby, author of the discipleship series, “Experiencing God.”
“The early church had a deep sense of knowing not only theologically that God was on mission, but also that they were right in the middle of his being on mission,” Blackaby told conference participants.
“Many churches don’t go to the mission field today because they’re not edified — or built up — in a dramatic relationship with the Lord,” he said. “But if churches are in that kind of relationship, they’ll be chomping at the bit to go because it will be as if God lays his heart over the people, and his heart intertwines their hearts. And his heart is to touch the world.”
The IMB has created several new networks to help churches carry out the Great Commission their Lord has given them.
One is the Global Priority Churches Network, which so far includes about 370 Southern Baptist congregations. Another is the Great Commission Resource Center, a global missions information exchange team. Bell Shoals Baptist Church, Brandon, Fla., is piloting the first of these centers.
To find out more about these networks, call 1-877-462-4721 or e-mail globalpriority@imb.org. To learn more about adopting a people group for prayer (PrayerPlus), call 1-888-462-7729 or e-mail prayerplus@imb.org. To adopt a people group for church involvement beyond prayer (PeopleLink) call 1-877-462-4721 or e-mail peoplelink@imb.org.

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