Board hears strategy update from Hollifield, Convention staffby C. Walter Overman
During the recent Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) Board of Directors (Board) meeting, held May 20-21 at Caraway Conference Center, Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSCNC executive director-treasurer, updated the Board on the implementation of the Convention’s five-year strategy: “Impacting Lostness Through Disciple-Making.”
The Board approved the strategy during its May 2013 meeting and the Convention began implementing the strategy in January of this year.
Hollifield began by recalling the key points of the strategy as a way of introducing the strategy to the newest members of the Board.
“Our research indicates that 5.8 million of our state’s residents have no relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord,” Hollifield said. “We cannot let these people live and die apart from an opportunity to accept a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.”
The strategy calls North Carolina Baptists to reverse the growing trend of lostness in the state through disciple-making.
“We define disciple-making as evangelism plus discipleship that results in disciples who in turn make disciples, who in turn make disciples,” Hollifield said.
Hollifield said the strategy is a bold plan that required sweeping change in the structure of the Convention. For some North Carolina Baptists the most notable change occurred in the Convention’s approach to campus ministry.
Under the previous campus ministry model, the Convention offered high-impact ministry to about nine campuses statewide, Hollifield said. The new paradigm, which includes three regional campus ministry consultants and two international ministry consultants, will equip local churches and associations to develop and implement contextualized, localized ministry models to engage college campuses with the gospel.
The goal is to have a gospel presence through the local church on many more of the nearly 200 college and university campuses across the state.
Hollifield noted that under the previous model, the Convention had a presence on the campus of North Carolina State University, which has about 34,000 students on campus, but no presence on the campuses of Wake Tech Community College, where nearly 70,000 students attend.
He then asked the Board, “Wouldn’t you agree that both campuses must be engaged with the gospel?”
Hollifield also mentioned that the BSCNC Collegiate Partnerships Team is continuing to engage college students in mission opportunities as in previous years.
“I am happy to report to you that more than 200 college students will be involved in a number of mission projects through the Baptist State Convention this summer,” he said.
The strategy also resulted in the formation of the Strategic Focus Team, which the Convention has tasked with assisting churches and associations in the eight population centers where the 100 most concentrated pockets of lostness are located. The Strategic Focus Team consists of strategy coordinators who live and work in these population centers. This means the strategy begins its focus on the following population centers: Asheville, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greenville, Hickory, Triad, Triangle and Wilmington, and while the strategy begins in these concentrated pockets of lostness it is not limited to these areas.
Hollifield said the strategy coordinators are working with local church and associational leaders to identify the needs of each community and to develop strategies to impact lostness tailored to local areas.
“The strategy coordinators do not come in to tell local churches or associations what to do,” Hollifield said. “They come in to work shoulder-to-shoulder and help you understand the needs that are there.”
The strategy also challenges North Carolina Baptists to strengthen existing churches through disciple-making and to commit to planting new churches.
“We must strengthen existing churches and plant new churches and we must do so with an emphasis on disciple-making” Hollifield said. “Without disciple-making we do not have a future. Disciple-making must become the purpose of the local church.”
During the presentation, Hollifield called on Chuck Register, BSCNC executive leader for church planting and missions partnerships; Lynn Sasser, BSCNC executive leader for evangelism and discipleship; and Brian Davis, BSCNC associate executive director-treasurer, to update the Board on the strategy implementation within their respective groups.
Register informed the Board about efforts to identify unreached and unengaged people groups through the North Carolina People Group Identification (NCPGI) project. The NCPGI project launched in January in the Charlotte, Triad and Triangle population centers.
“The purpose is to identify the people groups and to begin initial engagement of these people groups with the gospel,” Register said. “We want the engagement to move toward the planting of ethnic churches across the state and to help our ethnic peoples to become involved in cross-cultural missions as well.”
Register said the information collected through NCPGI will be used by the strategy coordinators to assist local churches and directors of missions to develop strategies to reach these people groups with the gospel.
So far, the project has discovered 54 points of engagement in the Charlotte, Triad and Triangle areas “where North Carolina Baptists need to be about the business of engaging with the gospel, planting an ethnic congregation among unreached and unengaged people groups,” he said. More information about the NCPGI project is available here.
Sasser updated the Board on the efforts of the evangelism and discipleship group to strengthen existing churches through disciple-making.
“Disciple-making is an umbrella term that includes evangelism and discipleship,” he said. “We cannot make disciples without evangelism, but neither can we do evangelism as Jesus commanded us to do without making disciples through discipleship.”
Sasser said “The Story” is the Convention’s primary tool for disciple-making training for 2014. He said the training equips believers to communicate the gospel in a way that the broader culture can understand.
“As disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to be fishers of men and we should tell the story of God in ways that will connect with the culture,” he said.
The evangelism and discipleship group has held three training events so far this year with three more scheduled before the end of the year. On the current pace, more than 500 pastors will receive “The Story” training in 2014. For more information, visit www.ncbaptist.org/thestory.
Davis reminded the Board that the strategy calls attention to lostness across the entire state and challenges all North Carolina Baptist churches to impact lostness through disciple-making.
“We want you to know that there are three members of our staff that are committed to helping anyone outside of the eight population centers develop their strategies to impact lostness where they are,” he said.
Davis also updated the Board on the work of the Strategic Focus Team and introduced the team to the Board.
Conley said that the strategy coordinators have focused their attention so far on building relationships, establishing prayer strategies and discovering information about each population center.
“We are working to discover and raise awareness of the unreached people groups around us and we are educating people to the importance of disciple-making as the means to impacting lostness around us,” Conley said.
Michael Sowers, strategy coordinator for the Triad population center, described for the Board the depths of lostness in the Triad area.
“There are 382 North Carolina Baptist churches in the Triad, yet we still have nine pockets of lostness where at least 71 percent of the people in those areas are without a relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said.
Sowers invited North Carolina Baptists to see these pockets of lostness firsthand on Nov. 10 during “Pray Greensboro,” a prayer-walking event planned in conjunction with the BSCNC annual meeting in Greensboro. More information is available here.
Sowers closed by challenging all North Carolina Baptists to get involved in disciple-making and impacting lostness wherever they live.
“It’s time for us to be mobilized and to go and take the gospel to the people who need it most and they’re all over our state,” he said.
For more information about the BSCNC’s strategy, visit www.ncbaptist.org/strategy.