By Justin Wainscott
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Jackson
I recently returned from Sub-Saharan Africa, where a team from First Baptist Church, Jackson, served for several days, seeking to make disciples and strengthen local churches. And though we had experiences that were of particular encouragement to our church and our partners, there were also aspects of this trip that I believe can provide encouragement to all Tennessee Baptists.
So, I offer the following reflections in hopes that they will instill confidence in you and your church as you think about what God is doing globally.
The mission field is becoming a mission force. We have grown accustomed to thinking about the Global South in general, and places like Africa in particular, as the mission field. But this trip reminded me that it is quickly becoming a mission force.
For example, just on the small evangelism team that I was a part of, I had brothers and sisters from South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe partnering with me. It was a picture of the nations taking the gospel to the nations.
And it was beautiful.
Sociologists tell us that just a hundred years ago, only 9 percent of Africa claimed to be Christian. Today, more than 60 percent of Africa claims to be Christian. And not only that, it is estimated that by the year 2050, one out of every eight people in the world will be an African Christian.
That’s what I mean by the mission field becoming a mission force. So, be encouraged by what God is doing in Africa and pray that it would continue.
Our IMB missionaries are doing great work. We have faithful IMB missionaries who are doing great work all around the world because of Southern Baptists’ gifts through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
But in this particular experience, I saw the benefit of our IMB missionaries and their work in two main ways.
The first way was the training and equipping they provided our mission team. Before we ever left, one of our IMB missionaries (who is a fellow Tennessee Baptist) came to our church, met with our team, and provided training for disciple-making in an African context. And while we were there, another IMB missionary met with us in the mornings to provide ongoing training in evangelism and discipleship. This training prepared us well and gave us confidence in our task.
The second way we benefited from their labors was in seeing the impact of their discipleship on one of the African pastors and church planters that we have been working with the past few years.
His obvious growth and maturity is a testament to their faithful labors. Tennessee Baptists, you can be proud of the great work our IMB missionaries are doing, and you should be grateful for all the ways God is using them.
God is using youth to advance the gospel. Even though I’m still in my 30s, I was considered an “old man” in comparison to most of the people who participated in this mission project.
Whether American or African, most of them were high school or university students in their teens or 20’s. They were courageous and bold. And God used them in numerous ways to advance the gospel.
So don’t underestimate the power of God to use willing youth to carry out the Great Commission — whether that’s across the street or across the globe. The next generation of missionaries are in your youth groups and sitting in your pews right now. Train them. Invest in them. And give them opportunities to go.
Tennessee Baptists, be encouraged by what God is doing around the world, and find ways for your church to get involved in that work.