[img_assist|nid=8056|title=Spreading the Gospel|desc=IMB conference at Istrouma story, photo by mark h. hunter, Rev. Michael Cloer, senior pastor of Englewood Baptist Church of Rocky Mount, N.C., explains how a local church, that wants to conduct its own oversees missions to an unengaged or unreached people group, should connect with the expertise offered by IMB's staff of Missional Church Strategists, during a presentation at the Impact Your World Conference held at Istrouma Baptist in Baton Rouge on March 22-23.|link=none|align=right|width=640|height=411]By Mark H. Hunter, Regional Reporter
BATON ROUGE – More than 75 representatives from 25 area Baptist churches spent two days learning how to spread the gospel “from South Louisiana to the ends of the earth.”
The Impact Your World Conference, which took place at Istrouma Baptist Church on March 22-23, was hosted by the Louisiana Baptist Convention and five area Baptist Associations. The event featured a dozen speakers from LBC and the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Missions Board, who explained in detail how to fulfill the Great Commission to more than 3,800 unengaged and/or unreached people groups.
Also available: the IMB’s “Getting There” workbook for pastors and missions leaders.
Clyde Meador, IMB’s executive vice president and career missionary, described just how awesome the task of evangelizing the world actually is.
“In the book of Revelation we are told that the believers who are gathered around the throne are from every language, from every people, from every tribe, from every nation,” Meador said. “The way I describe a people group is – a people group is the people who call us – ‘us.’ There are about 11,500 ‘us’s’ in the world.”
“Our latest count is 3,361 of those 11,500 people groups are what we call unengaged and un-reached people groups,” Meador said. “Probably about a quarter of the world’s population of about seven billion – more than a billion and a half people – do not have real access to the gospel.”
Meador told how one missionary reported that after contacting a remote tribe of Kurds in northern Iraq, and telling them there is a God who loves them, the tribal elder replied, “We have been waiting a thousand years for somebody to tell us that.”
The IMB is challenging each local church to accept the task of reaching one specific unreached people group “and seeing that that group comes to know the Lord,” Meador said. The IMB staff has multiple programs to help them accomplish that, he said.
Gordon Fort of Louisiana, a missionary’s son who grew up in Africa and is now IMB’s vice president for global strategy, said, “We are not reaching our potential.” If, for example, only one percent of the 9 million Southern Baptists who regularly attend church would join the 5,000 fulltime SBC missionaries on the mission field, Fort said, “That would be 90,000 missionaries!”
Fort compared the way American citizens all pitched in to win World War II to the church’s effort today to evangelize the world. “We need the church to understand we are at war,” Fort said.
Jim Slack, an IMB field services consultant and lifelong missionary, reminded the group that in their King James Bible, the word “nations,” is actually “ethnos” in Greek, which means a people group – “not a nation of geographical borders.” For Americans, many of the un–reached people groups have “moved into our neighborhoods,” he said, because about 35 million have entered America since the year 2000.
[img_assist|nid=8057|title=IMB Conference|desc=Gordon Fort, VP for IMB's global strategy, (left) listens while Clyde Meador, IMB's executive vice president, answers a question about global missions at the Impact Your World conference held at Istrouma Baptist in Baton Rouge on March 22-23.|link=none|align=left|width=640|height=462]Ramon Rodriguez of Natalbany Baptist in Hammond and Miguel Rodriguez of El Camino Baptist in Amite during a break between sessions said they agreed with that assessment.
“People are coming to America to escape persecution and we can impact our world here,” Rodriguez said. “Our churches are growing.”
Ken Winter, IMB’s vice president of church and partner services, said that as they visit conferences like this one they are seeing, “God is moving in His church. Churches are accepting the challenge to embrace unengaged and unreached people groups.”
Michael Cloer, senior pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, S.C., told how their church several years adopted a particular people group in Southeast Asia and explained how they succeeded and how they failed. He encouraged the pastors to tap into the IMB’s expertise and already established programs.
Dwayne Pitre, Istrouma’s outreach minister, said, the conference’s nine combined sessions and 10 breakout sessions were “designed to get the pump primed for the small, local churches to understand the world’s lostness and how they can get involved.”
“The people here were the people God wanted to be here,” Pitre said. “What they learned was beneficial so they can take what they learned back to their church.”
Freddie Arnold is associate director of missions for the 43 church, Eastern Louisiana Baptist Association and interim minister of education at First Baptist Livingston.
“One of the things I’m going to take home is the fact that I’ve caught the vision that some of the younger people in our church have today,” Arnold said as to why they want to do their own Great Commission ‘hands-on’ work.
“Just giving to the Cooperative Program is not enough,” Arnold said. “That’s been a revelation to me.”