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Ministry, mission usually begin at home, missions leaders say

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–For most Christians, initial opportunities to witness and minister are not on the opposite side of the world but right in their own home, church or community.
That’s what speakers, conference leaders and missionaries emphasized during the Jericho Southern Baptist Missions Festival, July 26-Aug. 1 at Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center.
Approximately 1,200 people participated in the conference based around the theme, “Whatever It Takes.” The week was sponsored by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, Sunday School Board and Woman’s Missionary Union. Among participants were 255 emeritus international missionaries with 7,179 combined years of service.
Ministry often begins with a “simple commitment to think about the needs of people,” Richard Leach, NAMB consultant in lay renewal and church renewal, said in a conference on starting relevant ministries. “Over a period of time God begins to move us from one place to another.”
He cited his 78-year-old mother, Bernice, who pledged to distribute five gospel tracts each week. That commitment led her into a nursing home ministry and to visits to a child-care center.
Leach urged conferees to seek ways to share the gospel through their daily activities. He listed a five-step method for finding a relevant ministry:
1) Explore the possibilities.
2) Experiment with as many opportunities as possible.
3) Examine your feelings.
4) Evaluate your effectiveness.
5) Expect confirmation from the church.
Robert Pepper, a missionary doctor in the West Africa nation of Guinea, uses ministry to the physical needs of people to seek to meet their spiritual needs.
“It would really be a tragedy if someone suffered physically in this world and then spent eternity in hell,” Pepper said in a testimony during a worship service.
Camille Simmons, who directs community ministries in San Antonio, Texas, said Southern Baptists can and must minister in the inner cities of the United States.
“We can go by the thousands,” she said. “We can mentor little boys without male role models. We can mentor young parents and see their children grow up to love God. We must start thousands of new congregations in the inner cities. We can do whatever it takes.”
Brenda Clark, missionary to southern Africa, described making cakes and serving tea to itinerant workers in her community, an effort that led to varied ministries to meet needs she and her husband, Dave, discovered through their hospitality.
“Be involved for Christ where he is working,” she urged. “Don’t give God a list of ‘I cans’ and ‘I can’ts.'”
Kimberly MacNeil, a US-2 missionary in Southern California, said working as a public school teacher and part-time minister of youth in Virginia prepared her for her current role in teaching Christians how to witness.
“If every believer was on ministry and mission in the way God was leading them, we could win the world,” MacNeil said.
Baptist Sunday School Board President James T. Draper Jr. traced his experiences in volunteer mission projects in the United States, Kenya, Hong Kong, Brazil and other countries.
“There’s something significant for all of us in stopping doing what we’re doing and allowing God to use us in some extraordinary ways,” Draper said. “It is a wonderful privilege to be a volunteer. It will change your life.”
Calvin Miller, professor of communication and ministry studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, asked in his Sunday morning message, “What are we doing with that powerful sense of radicalism that made us as a people?”
Christians today must be who God calls them to be, take stands and go, Miller said. “Go is two-thirds of the word God.”
Also, he urged, “let people determine your programs. Saving our ecclesiology is not as important as saving our world. And remember that transformation is the main thing.”
WMU consultant Sheryl Churchill said churches must use varied approaches — awareness activities, one-time events, short- and long-term projects — to involve as many people as possible in missions and ministry.
An IMB representative who ministers in a country that does not allow missionaries said, “The status quo as we have been sending missionaries is not acceptable.
“The commission belongs to the church. No matter how much it costs us, we must do whatever it takes.”

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  • Linda Lawson