As a growing minority within the Southern Baptist Convention, African American Southern Baptists are needed to play pivotal roles in reaching the world with the Gospel, says David Cornelius, African American missional church strategist for the International Mission Board.
Congregations such as North Buffalo Community Church in New York and Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Virginia, are taking lead roles in supporting missions through a series of mission trips and prayer initiatives.
There are about 3,800 African American Southern Baptist congregations in the United States and nearly fifty African Americans serving as IMB missionaries.
Sharing Good News
North Buffalo Community Church in New York has organized several trips to West Africa, Middle America, and the Caribbean to work with Southern Baptist personnel as part of becoming an Acts 1:8 church — one that commits to a comprehensive missions strategy in their community, state, continent, and world.
Years before the church took its first international missions trip, senior pastor William Smith heard of a longstanding prayer request for an African American missionary couple to help reach a particular people in Suriname.
Years later, while serving as an International Mission Board trustee, Smith shared an elevator with Courtney and Arleen Street from Maryland, who were in Richmond for a missionary candidate conference.
The pastor asked the couple where they were going to serve. When the Streets told him they were headed to Suriname, Smith became emotional as he shared the prayer request he'd heard long ago.
The Streets were "God's handpicked missionaries in answer to a twenty-five-year-old prayer request," Smith says.
"I remember him with tears in his eyes," Courtney says. "He got very excited because God had answered prayers for Suriname."
The chance meeting between the missionaries and Smith grew into a missions partnership.
"Brother Bill became one of our biggest prayer supporters," Courtney says. "He led two volunteer trips to Suriname and certainly made a tremendous impact on the lives of the Surinamese."
Appointed as missionaries in 1997, the Streets recently relocated to Antigua.
Passion for Missions
At the beginning of each year, Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Virginia, makes a faith budget for their mission work, which has included trips to West Africa and Brazil.
"We trust that if God calls, He will provide the resources," says Michael Coppedge, the church's director of missions. "We pray about what God has for us to do, who to partner with."
About five years ago, Antioch began a partnership with Southern Baptist missionaries Keith and Deborah Jefferson of Brazil. Since then, a team from the church has gone overseas at least once a year.
Mission teams in Brazil can openly share the Gospel through preaching in parks or showing the JESUS film, Coppedge says. In West Africa, they found that relational evangelism — sitting down for coffee or a meal — was the best sharing technique.
"We discuss God, religion, their idea of how to get to heaven as opposed to how we believe," Coppedge says. "Basically, we just share Jesus."
To learn more about African American missional church strategy, contact David Cornelius at 1-800-999-3113, ext. 1422.