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SBC DIGEST: Record attendance at church planter orientation; Diaspora missions collaborative meets

Send Network sets record attendance at church planter orientation

By NAMB Staff

ALPHARETTA (BP) – One hundred sixty-five new church planters attended Send Network’s Orientation March 7-9 at the North American Mission Board’s headquarters, setting a record for the in-person event since it was first offered in January 2016.

The three-day equipping and training experience, which occurs two to three times a year, is a critical first step in the church planting journey for newly endorsed Send Network church planters.

“It was so cool to see that we’re not the only ones doing this,” said Chris Cope, who is planting in a Philadelphia suburb and attended the orientation with his Sending Church pastor. “There’s a diversity of people, backgrounds, and planting contexts represented here.”

Church planters from 37 states and Puerto Rico attended, including more than 60 Hispanic planters. In addition, church planters from a new partnership between Send Network and the National African American Fellowship will make their way from orientation to plant churches in underserved African American communities across North America.

New Send Network church planters from Canada were unable to attend, as they await changes in travel regulations and logistics affecting cross-border travel.

“I thought it was going to be just a class and giving information,” said Luis Rodríguez Santiago, who is planting Iglesia Bautista Raham de Aibonito in Puerto Rico. “But I felt cared for – and the bonding, the family that I found here was amazing.”

Santiago’s father, the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention of Puerto Rico, was also supported by the North American Mission Board, and texted his son to reminisce about seeing the Puerto Rican flag fly at the building’s headquarters.

“He texted me and said, ‘I was there when they raised the flag.’ It was kind of an emotional thing,” Santiago said. “As NAMB served my dad, they serve me – so they can serve others.”

Planters attend a series of sessions and workshops, hear messages of encouragement, and worship God together over the course of their time at orientation.

“It was a grace from the Lord to see a lot of workers being prepared to go into the fields,” said Roy Vidal, who is planting Iglesia Bautista Camino de Gracia, also in Puerto Rico. “I’m very excited to see there’s a family that loves church planters.”

Mark White, pastor of the church that is sending Cope and a team of planters, said he attended Send Network Orientation to spend dedicated time with his planter, but also to better equip his church as they grow.

“As we build church planting into our culture, I wanted to experience Orientation firsthand,” White said.

Cope and White also connected with other church planters from the Philadelphia area they had never met before.

“That’s what this is about: a brotherhood, a family of planters – from so many backgrounds, and reaching such diverse communities with the Gospel,” said Noah Oldham, who leads Send Network’s Care team that organized the orientation. “We are here to energize and equip these new church planters, and then serve and support them for the first five years of their church planting journey, in order to see them become church planting churches.”

SEBTS hosts in-person meeting of the diaspora missions collaborative

By SEBTS Staff

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) – On Feb. 24, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) held its first in-person meeting for the Diaspora Missions Collaborative, a steering committee for an initiative that entity leaders will formally announce at the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif. The committee exists to highlight the unity and emphasis of SBC entities on diaspora missions engagement across the Convention’s 40,000-plus churches.

“It is without question that Southern Baptists can do more together than they can alone,” said SEBTS President Danny Akin. “This does not just include our giving. It also includes coming together to collaborate and plan. Reaching the world and reaching North America requires strategic partnerships, and this is exactly what the Diaspora Missions Collaborative is. Only as we work together can we reach diaspora people in our nation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. SEBTS is honored to work alongside these brothers and sisters.” 

Along with SEBTS, steering committee partners included leaders from the following entities, state conventions, and associations: 

  • North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Send Relief 
  • International Mission Board (IMB) 
  • Executive Committee (SBC) 
  • National Women’s Missionary Union (WMU) 
  • Arkansas Baptist Convention 
  • Kentucky Baptist Convention 
  • Louisville Regional Baptist Association 
  • Metropolitan New York Baptist Association 
  • Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary 

Steering committee leaders echoed the theme of cooperation in their efforts to reach more refugees, immigrants, and international students with the Gospel. They expressed how coming together to reach diaspora peoples is more effective together than any one entity or church can do alone.

“Cooperation is at the core of who we are as Southern Baptists, and by bringing the entities together, we can be much stronger,” said John Barnett, missions strategist with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and ambassador with Send Relief. “Working together shows a more unified vision to cast as a convention to be able to engage.” Barnett explained that this collective effort would result in strategic partnerships, pathways, and pipelines to aid diaspora missions.

Likewise, Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director-treasurer of the Woman’s Missionary Union said, “When you combine the breadth and depth of all the partnering entities, collectively we are in a unique position to make an incredible impact for the Kingdom through diaspora missions.”

After a full day of planning and discussion, the steering committee agreed to several objectives that included ways to equip, educate, and encourage members of Southern Baptist churches toward diaspora mission work. Some of the agreed upon objectives included the goal to: 

  • Encourage churches engaging people groups globally to engage locally, and those engaging locally to engage the same people group globally. 
  • Encourage missionary sending pipelines to engage diaspora people groups as part of their training. 

“Pursuing this opportunity makes strategic missiological sense when it comes to getting the gospel to all peoples,” said Terry Sharp, convention and network relations leader for the IMB. “As immigrants, international students, and refugees in the U.S. come to know Christ and are discipled, they will take the Gospel, virtually or in person, back to their communities which could be some of the least-reached nations of the world. Missionaries must continue to go to unreached peoples and places globally, but Christians in North America shouldn’t miss the opportunities that God is orchestrating to reach the nations at their doorstep.”

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  • BP Staff