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‘Strategy coordinators’ needed to take gospel to lost millions

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Although the number of new Christians worldwide is growing at a record pace, the growth is hardly keeping up with birth rates. No matter how fast missionaries add new churches, the number of people without Christ grows just as fast.
If every person on earth is to have an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel, missions strategists say we have to quit adding churches — and start multiplying them.
“Business as usual just isn’t getting the job done,” said David Garrison, associate vice president for strategy coordination and mobilization for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. “Evangelical missionaries are incrementally increasing the number of new believers, but we are only barely keeping pace with population growth rates. Meanwhile, millions of lost men and women live and die without ever having an opportunity to respond to God’s love and grace.”
So missions strategists began to ask, “What’s it going to take to get the job done?”
Garrison finds the answer in “church planting movements,” stirrings of God’s spirit that have resulted in explosive church growth. He cites examples like a country in Southeast Asia where the number of Baptist churches jumped from five to 120 in just four years, and India, where 1,000 new congregations were started in three years in an area where no churches existed before.
“We see God at work in various places around the world where churches are springing up and multiplying in phenomenal displays of his power and grace,” Garrison said. “When we study these church planting movements, we see they have some common characteristics.”
Explosive church growth can happen when a missionary concentrates on mentoring local evangelists and multiplying a vision for starting many new churches, Garrison said. The missionary emphasizes lay leadership and low-overhead meeting places that can be duplicated easily, as opposed to expensive buildings and highly trained leadership, which can stymie church growth.
This insight has led IMB leaders to place a higher priority on one type of missionary urgently sought for overseas assignment: the strategy coordinator.
The idea of the strategy coordinator is not new. It was developed over the last 10 years as an approach to introducing the gospel to ethnic people groups with little or no access to the gospel. The strategy coordinator’s success in starting rapid church growth led IMB leaders to place greater emphasis on the role.
As a result, fully half of the positions on the board’s latest list of 50 most urgently needed new missionaries are for strategy coordinators.
“The strategy coordinator focuses on a people group and is empowered to design and implement a strategy to reach that people group with the gospel,” Garrison said. “The strategy coordinator isn’t doing the job himself but leading a team of church planters, Bible translators, gospel broadcasters, literacy missionaries and health and relief workers.”
The increased emphasis on strategy coordinators doesn’t mean the board is moving away from traditional church planters and evangelists, Garrison added.
“We’re not moving away from an incarnational model where people go and plant their lives among a people and identify with them,” he said. “We’re putting a one-two punch in place, where a church planting team is supported by someone who is coordinating resources to enable that ministry to take place.
“The strategy-coordinator method is bringing the gospel to millions of unreached people around the world today. The vision is nothing less than a church planting movement that would take the gospel to every man, woman and child in a people group before they spend an eternity without Christ.”
For information on specific requests for new missionaries, contact the
International Mission Board by sending an e-mail to [email protected] or calling 1-888-422-6461.

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  • Mark Kelly