Listening to the hubbub of voices of the Multi-Ethnic Advisory Council as they met in small groups, Frank S. Page, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, noted, “Hearing you talk and debate and quote scripture in your various accents and your various perspectives [reminds me] how rich we are as a family of God to have all of you at the table.”
Guided by Chairman Timmy Chavis, pastor of Bear Swamp Baptist Church in Pembroke, North Carolina, the Council collaborated with one another about the biblical basis of missions, evangelism, and discipleship.
Members also considered questions about theological education, ethics and religious liberty, and the Cooperative Program posed by Ken Weathersby, EC vice president for Convention advancement, who serves as the liaison to the group.
The Council, representing numerous language, ethnic, and racial fellowships within the SBC, explored how their churches can more fully participate in Convention processes and reflected on ways the Convention can better serve the needs of their respective churches.
Lennox Zamore, pastor of Ebenezer Memorial Baptist Church in Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands, identified seven passages used by his group to underscore the biblical basis for missions and evangelism, with Matthew 28:18–20 as the dominant text.
“As a missions framework, we used the phrase, ‘As you go, evangelize; as you evangelize, disciple; and as you disciple, baptize,’” he said.
Ben Mishin, pastor of Life Way Baptist Church in Philadelphia, noted, “The biblical basis for evangelism is found in Acts 1:8—You will be My witnesses,” he said.
“The most impressive rationale” for missions and evangelism “is the life and ministry of Jesus Christ,” he said. “He came into the world, so we should go out into the world. Jesus not only communicated with people; He served people and provided an example for people.
“The life of Jesus, His redeeming grace” is the heart of missions and evangelism, he said.
Speaking on behalf of his group, Zamore noted that a common missions problem is that “in our churches, we create a culture of people who stay, not go.” We must “develop an evangelism lifestyle through discipling believers, so that discipleship is not a class,” he said.
One strategy his group discussed is the creation of a multi-lingual, multimedia evangelism website that is replicable, user-friendly, and accessible on smart phones.
“The world today is using implements to foster the culture and we need to make this medium part of the Gospel,” he said. “If we could deploy youth and yoke them with seasoned disciplers in creating and managing the websites and the apps, . . . we [will] have a young work force in the Gospel” being mentored by those who have more experience in sharing their faith.
We must create a “Kennedy Kingdom mentality,” he said, amidst laughter from his fellow group members for his reference to former US President John F. Kennedy’s famous line—“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
“We have too many people asking what the Kingdom can do for me,” he said. “We must change that around. What can I do for the Kingdom, not what can the Kingdom do for me.”
Members of his group were Jerry Baker (intercultural church planting and missions specialist with the Georgia Baptist Convention), Jamal Bishara (pastor of First Arabic Baptist Church in Phoenix, Arizona), Samuel Opoku (pastor of Abundant Life Baptist Church in Bronx, New York), Rodney Webb (retired language missions strategist with NAMB), Portique Wilburn (pastor of multi-ethnic Rock Harbor Christian Fellowship Church in San Pablo, California), and Ric Worshill (president of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship).
Mishin said church leaders and members must practice “friendship evangelism.” One powerful way to display the Gospel is to “practice acts of kindness, followed by an invitation to your home, which will involve personal testimony. . . . We must regularly remind the church that many people walking in this world do not know Christ.”
Other members of his group were Chavis, Joseph Gaston (president of the Haitian Baptist Fellowship), Charles Locklear (pastor of Calvary Way Baptist Church in Pembroke, North Carolina), Pierre A. Marc (pastor of First Haitian Baptist Church in Burlington, New Jersey), Wilner Maxy (pastor of Emmanuel Haitian Baptist Church in Miami, Florida), and Anatoly Moshkovshy (president of the All Ukrainian Baptist Fellowship and ethnic church planting team leader for the Pennsylvania/South Jersey Baptist Convention).
The Council, appointed to help the SBC Executive Committee, NAMB, and other SBC entity leaders more fully understand and appreciate the perspectives ethnic churches and church leaders bring to the common task of reaching the nation and all nations with the Gospel, met in Atlanta on March 19–20.
Roger S. Oldham is vice president for Convention communications and relations for the SBC Executive Committee and is a member of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee.