Acts 1:8 leaders focused on missions strategy, holistic outreach

by BSCNC Communications
Tuesday, July 24, 2012 | 2 yrs old

Southern Baptist Convention missions leaders are turning their attention to how they can help local churches carry out the Acts 1:8 Challenge initiative in practical ways that result in life transformation.

The Acts 1:8 initiative launched in 2004 by Southern Baptist state conventions, local associations, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the International Mission Board (IMB) to help churches develop a holistic missions strategy that includes local and global outreach.

Acts 1:8 state coordinators, state leaders and entity representatives discussed how churches can best create this missions strategy during the annual State Coordinators Meeting July 18-19 at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina offices in Cary, N.C.

“Acts 1:8 is not something where churches sign a piece of paper, or it just becomes rhetoric. It’s something they can actually live out,” said Terry Sharp, IMB director/lead strategist for state and association relations and urban mobilization strategies. “It’s local and global reach; it’s not either/or. We’ve compartmentalized missions for too long.”

Sharp explained that the intent of Acts 1:8 has always been to encourage churches to embrace a comprehensive missions strategy. “It was meant to be very strategic. We want to help churches connect the dots,” Sharp said.

Missions leaders shared how they are helping churches connect the dots among local, statewide, national and global missions opportunities, all for the sake of being more intentional about impacting lostness.

In Virginia, Mark Gauthier is working with a group of churches to begin reaching the more than 140 people groups in Washington, D.C. “We know they are there, but we don’t know where. We are trying to gather information. We’re excited to see the excitement the churches have to reach people in D.C.,” Gauthier said. Gauthier is director of mobilizing churches and state disaster relief director for Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia.

Churches are mapping the area to identify where different people groups live, and will then choose a people group among whom they will serve.

Florida Baptist leaders are assisting ethnic church plants in reaching people beyond their own ethnic group, and the state convention is hosting an “ethneCITY” conference in Miami with a Spanish track.

Sharp also shared practical ways churches can make connections among missions opportunities and live missionally. One of the most effective ways missions leaders can do this is by helping new church starts get Acts 1:8 in their DNA from the beginning.

Southern Baptists also have a tremendous opportunity to reach the nations by engaging locally with international students. Of the 750,000 international students living in the U.S., 75 percent will never be invited into an American home, and 85 percent will not be invited to church or have any meaningful relationships with Christians.

Another way churches can connect the dots is by reaching out to unreached people groups in their neighborhoods and communities. Churches ready to embrace an unreached people group living overseas may discover that people from a certain people group, or area of the world, are already living among them. Engaging that people group then becomes more effective when contact is being made locally as well as globally.

As Acts 1:8 is not a program for churches to simply plug and play, leaders also discussed the continued value of the initiative for local churches.

“Acts 1:8 is a conduit to how we can approach pastors who are not involved in missions. We can help them identify that they aren’t just planning a project or a trip, but they can plan a strategy to take the gospel to all the Acts 1:8 mission fields,” said Mark Emerson, director of missions involvement for the Illinois Baptist Convention.

Phil Young, church missions/ministry specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, said the initiative offers a means for pastors to connect. “Acts 1:8 could be a way for me to go to that local pastor and to say that part of the Acts 1:8 network of resources is to help you connect in these different ways. We can bring these different focuses together for the local church pastor,” he said.

“The perception is often that the agencies and state conventions aren’t talking to each other. My desire is for this group to find the best way to articulate to the local pastor that we are talking to each other, and that Acts 1:8 is a way to bring Embrace (www.imb.org) and Send North America (www.namb.net) all together to help design a strategy.”

NAMB and IMB are ready to assist churches in these efforts.

“We represent the Samaria content, through the context of Send North America. We are here to serve the church. We are just one quarter of the quadrant,” said Neal Hughes, mobilization coordinator for NAMB.

Eric King, director of missional church strategists team for the IMB, said the IMB is not driving Acts 1:8. “We’re serving it,” he said.

Acts 1:8 leaders expressed interest in expanding their tent of partners, to include more focus on associations and possibly working with state missions partnership leaders.

Craig Culbreth, director of partnership missions development for the Florida Baptist Convention, suggested that this expanding of the tent could help the group develop into a network of missional strategists focused on serving local churches. 

For more information about Acts 1:8 visit www.actsone8.com.