Great Commission Partnerships celebrates anniversary

by BSCNC Communications
Wednesday, September 18, 2013 | 1 year old

Three years ago New York City, Boston and Toronto were no places for a Southerner, Moldova was a country of little significance, and unreached people groups were statistics.

Now, these three North American cities are gateways to reach the nations with the gospel, Moldova is home to faithful leaders who continue ministry in a country that once persecuted them, and unreached people groups are names and faces who need to know Jesus.

Now, three years later, more North Carolina Baptists are engaging in long-term partnerships in some of the most strategic and unreached areas of the nation and world.

This year marks the three-year anniversary of the Office of Great Commission Partnerships (GCP) which coordinates partnerships of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina in New York City, Boston, Toronto and the Eastern European country of Moldova. Since GCP began, more North Carolina Baptist churches have started the process of developing a missions strategy that connects them locally and globally for effective, long-term impact ministry.

“We often send our people everywhere instead of asking the Father to guide us to that place or people group where the gospel has never been. We launched this office to help churches create a multi-year strategy to take the gospel to unreached, unengaged people groups,” said Chuck Register, executive leader for church planting and missions development. “We want to help North Carolina Baptists develop a strategy that will reach people in their community, North America and the world.”

Register applauded the leadership of Michael Sowers, senior consultant in the Office of Great Commission Partnerships.

“I am amazed that in three short years we have fully developed partnerships in New York City, Toronto, Boston and Moldova, and we have taken the initial steps to launch a partnership through the International Mission Board in Southeast Asia. That’s a testimony to the desire of North Carolina Baptists to bring gospel light to a spiritually dark world.”

Strategic cities
All along the 7-train route from Times Square to Flushing, Queens, is evidence of North Carolina Baptist partnership. As Queens is home to some of the most diverse neighborhoods in all of New York – and therefore some of the most strategic – North Carolina Baptists are committed to partnering with local church planters.

In addition to partnering with a Hispanic church plant on Long Island, First Baptist Church in Summerfield is partnering with planter Boto Joseph in Jackson Heights, an area home to more than 130 languages.

The Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA) anticipates starting a ministry center in Jackson Heights, a “key community that continues to be the arrival point for almost all the South Asians in the metropolitan region,” said George Russ, MNYBA executive director.

Russ expressed gratitude to North Carolina Baptists for their commitment to long-term partnerships, especially in an association where 70 percent of churches are non-English speaking and 70 percent do not own a building.

“It’s really about relationships; it’s not just a project. You get to meet people. There’s a blending of heart and soul,” Russ said.

Summerfield senior pastor Richard Odom values the relational aspect of partnership missions. “A lack of connections and relationship hinders excitement. As the church develops relationships with the planters, and as people go year after year, there’s a desire to go back,” he said.

Ted Hawkins and Salem Baptist Church in Sneads Ferry are gearing up for a five-year partnership with a church in Fall River, about one hour south of Boston.

“I think the congregation was really shocked when I told them how lost New England is, especially since this is where our Christian foundations started,” said Hawkins, the church missions coordinator.

About 98 percent of Boston’s 2.7 million population is unchurched, and only one Southern Baptist Convention church exists for every 13,352 people. 

Although spiritually dark, Hope Fellowship Church planter and pastor Curtis Cook said God is at work in Boston. More and more churches are on the verge of multiplying and planting other churches. He asked North Carolina Baptists to specifically pray for God to send more planters to Boston’s suburbs.

Like Russ, Cook is thankful for the BSCNC partnership.

“They have brought more churches and interested partners than any state convention. North Carolina has been a tremendous partner,” said Cook, who also serves as city coordinator for the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send Boston initiative.

The Office of Great Commission Partnerships has also helped connect North Carolina Baptists with church planters in the Greater Toronto Area, which is less than five percent evangelical and home to more than 6.5 million people.

“North Carolina Baptists have been faithful prayer warriors for our city,” said Andrew Lamme, Toronto lead church planting catalyst for NAMB. “The mission teams are coming with servant hearts and attitudes of doing whatever needs to be done. They have really gone outside their comfort zone.”

Just this year, 22 North Carolina Baptist churches partnered with church planters throughout the Greater Toronto Area.

Ends of the earth
Through partnership with the Baptist Union of Moldova, the Office of Great Commission Partnerships is helping North Carolina Baptists engage lostness in a country that is 96 percent non-evangelical and 73 percent Eastern Orthodox.

Moldova is strategic in that it is uniquely situated to impact the rest of the world with the gospel. For example, a Bible college in Moldova is training students from countries that are resistant to the gospel. These students will take the gospel back home once their studies are complete.

Aaron Wallace, pastor of Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, participated in the GCP vision tour last year to Moldova and is now leading his congregation to partner with a church planter in northern Moldova.

“The Moldovans can teach us a lot about cooperation. It’s about truly investing in the Kingdom together. They truly see the Kingdom as bigger than any one church,” Wallace said. “A future work is being built up in Moldova; a lasting work.”

As GCP also seeks to help North Carolina Baptists engage in Southeast Asia, the office has sponsored several equipping events in partnership with the International Mission Board, including the Impact Your World conference and Embrace Southeast Asian Peoples USA Training. GCP also sponsored a safety and security training.

The world is here
North Carolina’s growing diversity has challenged GCP to consider not only strategies for partnering throughout North America and the world, but also across the state. Through a pilot project known as NCMapID, GCP is working with Metrolina and Piedmont associations to identify each of the unique people groups living in the Charlotte and Greensboro metropolitan areas.

The goal is to mobilize North Carolina Baptists to partner with the Metrolina and Piedmont associations to help identify, pray for and engage the people groups, and to then expand the project by creating an effective model that can be used in the six other North Carolina metropolitan areas (read more about the project).

GCP is also committed to involving young leaders in North Carolina in missions. Through a three-year initiative known as Next Generation Missional Journey, high school and college students are learning from pastors, missionaries and missions strategists, and participating in hands-on missions experiences (read about their summer experience in New York City).

From equipping the next generation of mission leaders to sharing the gospel with people who have never heard, Register is encouraged by the support and enthusiasm of churches across the state.

“The response of North Carolina Baptists to the Office of Great Commission Partnerships has been overwhelming,” he said. “Through such engagement, North Carolina Baptists are expanding God’s Kingdom.”