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Plant in U.S. to reach the nations, panel says

WOODSTOCK, Ga. (BP) — The influx of foreign-born people into North America gives Southern Baptist churches a unique opportunity to reach the nations, a veteran International Mission Board worker said at the 2012 Send North America Conference.

Most churches, though, are failing to take advantage of the opportunity, he said at the conference sponsored by the North American Mission Board.

“We need to look at some other models and methods when we start churches among people groups,” IMB representative Bryan Galloway said during a conference breakout session on “Reaching the Nations in North America.” “We’re just not doing that.”

Galloway and four other Southern Baptist leaders with experience reaching out to minority groups were part of a panel discussion at the recent conference in Woodstock, Ga.

Moderated by the North American Mission Board’s team leader for church mobilization, Shane Critser, the panel discussed a variety of issues related to church planting among minorities, from training church planters to difficulties in getting church plants to survive.

Carlos Navarro, pastor of Iglesia Bautista West Brownsville in Brownsville, Texas, said one of the biggest issues his church has faced in starting Hispanic churches in Texas is a dependence upon buildings.

“Hispanics won’t be reached in church buildings,” Navarro said. “We’re going to have to reach them where they are. It’s going to be difficult in the future for us to build our own buildings.”

He also pointed to the diversity of Hispanics as a challenge for planting churches. Most people believe the majority of Hispanics come from Mexico, he said, but many Hispanics come from Central and South America, including Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Each culture is different and often requires a different strategy, Navarro said.

James Dixon, a Maryland pastor and immediate past president of the National African American Fellowship, believes even funding sometimes can be a hindrance to church planting among African Americans.

“Church planting is a process,” Dixon said, speaking in part to the funding issue. “You want a church that lasts. We often don’t let a church planter trust his calling. If you’ve said God has called you to this, you’ve got to trust God for it.”

By pushing funding on planters too early, Dixon said, they often depend on the finances rather than having faith in God and His call on their lives.

Aslam Masih, NAMB’s national coordinator for Muslim people groups and South Asians, went beyond some of the struggles — which he admits are numerous — of reaching Muslims and focused on opportunities to find Muslim-background leaders for new churches.

“The only thing we need to look for in church planters who are trying to plant churches among Muslim-background people is the vision,” Masih said. “Who has the vision to plant churches among Muslim-background people?”

Benny Wong, pastor of First Chinese Baptist Church in Los Angeles, talked about what has been effective for his church in training new planters. Wong said the church doesn’t have a formal program for church planters and instead he focuses on modeling church planting for his people.

“For the first year my wife and I helped out every week,” Wong said of a church his congregation planted three years ago. “We stacked chairs, vacuumed and picked up trash. That motivated laymen to get involved.”

The breakout session was one of a variety of options offered during NAMB’s first-ever Send North America Conference at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., July 30-31. Other options for breakouts and workshops included, “Raising Up Church Planters in the Local Church,” “Intentional Living in the Urban Context” and “Preaching and Contextualization.”
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Tobin Perry