RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Imagine standing before God and hearing him say something like this:
“Well done, good and faithful servant. Because you obediently followed me, an entire people group lost in darkness heard the good news of my Son.”
Imagine, further, the redeemed brothers and sisters of that once-lost people embracing you in gratitude as you join them around the throne of grace to sing praises to the Lamb who was slain.
The last part of that heavenly vision will become reality one glad day for God’s faithful, according to Revelation 5. But what about the first part? Can any one person — however committed — set the stage for an entire people to hear and respond to the gospel?
“A lot of people I talk to say, ‘How can this happen?'” says David Garrison, who spearheads strategy coordination and mobilization at the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. “But that’s exactly what is happening, and it’s happening again and again.”
Specifically, it’s happening through the work of missionary “strategy coordinators.” This assignment, pioneered by Southern Baptist mission strategists over a decade ago, has been embraced by evangelical mission agencies worldwide. Many of them now send missionaries to IMB experts for “SC” training.
Once controversial, the strategy coordinator approach has more than proven itself by paving the way for evangelization and church-planting movements among unreached peoples.
In essence, an SC takes responsibility for designing and carrying out strategies to initiate a church-planting movement among a specific people group (an ethnic people, a city or region). That may sound like organization-speak, but it’s worth understanding.
The strategy coordinator does not go to a foreign locale exclusively to preach, or minister, or teach, or start individual churches — though all of those things may be done. Rather, he or she approaches an entire people with one big-picture goal: to see an unstoppable church planting movement begun, a movement that will empower local believers to worship God, evangelize their own people and reach out to others in turn.
It’s a God-sized vision, but the SC isn’t playing God. Rather, he is a “redistribution agent” and a catalyst, according to “What is a Strategy Coordinator?” a short paper describing the role (read it at www.tconline.org). “The strategy coordinator is a bridge between two worlds: the [enormous supply] of Christian resources and the need of an unreached people group.”
He identifies the needs of the unreached, acts as their advocate to Christians and mobilizes effective responses (prayer, mission workers, Scripture translation, broadcasts, leader training, whatever it takes) — all the while keeping his eyes on the prize of a church planting movement.
Other metaphors for the role: a symphony conductor, a coach, a construction foreman. Everyone has a specific task, but somebody has to see — and communicate — the big picture. That’s the strategy coordinator.
Hundreds of strategy coordinator types (specific titles vary) now serve through the International Mission Board. But openings exist for 200-plus more, including many of the board’s most urgent missionary requests. Workers in a single, large unevangelized nation are appealing for 80 SCs. An IMB mission strategist assigned to southern Asia sadly informed colleagues at a recent meeting: “I’ve got 12 strategy coordinators for a billion people, and five of them are [short-termers].”
Yet only 19 strategy coordinators were appointed last year. If the role has so much potential, why aren’t more Southern Baptists stepping up?
Many haven’t heard about it. But aspects of the role can be found in Southern Baptist circles: associational directors of missions or church-based missions ministers who seek ways to evangelize people groups in their communities; creative pastors who turn their churches into world mission centers; market-savvy business people crowding the pews.
Still, many new missionary candidates “tend to have narrowly defined jobs, whether they’re coming from the church or the secular world,” says Garrison. The strategy coordinator role, in contrast, “is limited only by the lostness of your people group.”
Part of the answer: Give people a chance to try the assignment as interns or short-termers mentored by career strategy coordinators, a growing trend.
Another approach: Seek new strategy coordinators among lay Southern Baptists in business and government — people who have an entrepreneurial spirit, who see the big picture, who can ask and answer the question, “How do I reach this whole market?”
If you are such a person, God could use you. And millions of lost people need you.
For more information on strategy coordinator openings, visit www.imb.org and click on “You on Mission,” or call 1-888-422-6461. Join a discussion of the role at www.tconline.org.