By Diana Chandler
BRENTWOOD — Spreading the gospel among the more than 42 million foreign-born refugees, immigrants, and international students in the U.S. is the focus of the Reaching the Nations in North America conference, an upcoming national event spearheaded by North Carolina Baptists in conjunction with the Tennessee Baptist Convention, the International Mission Board, and the North American Mission Board.
Termed “diaspora missions,” ministry to those in the U.S. living outside their birth countries, can help evangelize unreached, unengaged people groups, conference organizer Chuck Register told Baptist Press.
“The summit is designed to heighten the awareness of denominational leaders and local church practitioners to the millions of foreign-born residents God has guided to the U.S. and to focus our attention and efforts on engaging immigrants, refugees, and international students with the gospel for church planting,” said Register, executive leader for church planting and missions partnerships with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. “Many of these groups are classified as unreached people groups or unreached and unengaged people groups.”
The conference is set for Aug. 26–27 at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood with the TBC, the IMB, and NAMB joining North Carolina Baptists as hosts.
“This workshop will help churches get the necessary tools to begin to engage people groups here in the United States with the gospel,” said Lewis McMullen, church planting specialist for the TBC.
He noted that conference attendees will learn “proven strategies that will help churches move beyond just the social needs to reaching people groups to engaging the spiritual needs.
“I think it’s highly significant that this workshop is being held near Nashville since in the Nashville area there are at least 94 different people groups that have been identified,” he said. Thirty-five of those are 1,000 or more in population and 30 are less than 2 percent evangelized, McMullen added.
“In Tennessee alone we have 146 different people groups and 45 of those are less than 2 percent evangelized. It is the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s privilege to partner in such an endeavor to help equip our TBC churches to engage and reach people groups with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” McMullen said.
Speakers include Ed Stetzer, LifeWay Research executive director, who will join Wheaton College’s faculty in July; Frank S. Page, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee president; Jenny Yang, World Relief vice president of advocacy and policy; J.D. Payne, pastor for church multiplication at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.; and others.
Breakout sessions, worship, and prayer are also on tap, with focused prayer targeting 30 strategical foreign-born people groups here, Register said.
Diaspora missions advocates Terry Sharp, the IMB’s state, association, and urban mobilization strategy leader, and Bryan Galloway, senior research analyst for the IMB’s global research department, have researched foreign-born people groups in select U.S. cities. The two have documented their findings through a joint project with NAMB at peoplegroups.info, and have led educational and motivational diaspora missions conferences aimed at churches.
“Many of those same people groups that we’re trying to reach globally are now in North America,” Sharp said. “The people groups have now come to North America, whether that be the immigrants that are coming, or the refugees or the international students, we’re trying to help the churches to connect the dots.”
The conference can help churches become engaged in diaspora missions perhaps even in their own cities, he said, adding that it also is designed for churches already at various levels of engagement.
Conference registration is $35 and available at ncbaptist.org under the Events tab.
— Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Baptist and Reflector, contributed to this report.