Thursday, August 6, 2015

SEND Conference and helping SBC churches on mission

This week's Send North America Conference, the joint North American Mission Board and International Mission Board event in Nashville that was designed to help participants find their place in every day missions, had, as SBC events always do, a means for folks to respond.

Of the 13,607 registered attendees, Baptist Press reports that about 1,100 had registered some formal, individual response as of the day after the conference had closed, and, get this, most did so by means of the Send Conference app. Your humble, plodding, Luddite blogger defiantly carries a dumb phone and was app-less. Not so the vast multitudes.

I've attended a good number of mission events over the years - the NAMB and IMB reports at the annual meetings, the mission weeks at our national conference centers have been the most prominent and largest. In casual conversations and in presentations I've heard many an overseas missionary or missionary couple share their calling to service. Quite a number of these spoke of being called or confirming or committing to a call at a specific Ridgecrest event or SBC meeting.

"I was called to serve in Kenya in 1974 at missions week at Ridgecrest" is the type of statement I've heard over and over and over, just change the date and the country.

Ideally and properly, every local church should provide the environment where members have preaching, teaching, and education on evangelism and service, on lostness and global needs, and on opportunities for service. There is no substitute for the local church being the primary ground for mission service. But I'm grateful that our loose collection of almost 50,000 churches has the resources to expand the ministry of my church.

Anecdotally (and on these I don't have data, but do have an opinion), here's what I see:

1. The old channels and catalysts for mission service have diminished. Call this a function of expanding technology, a trend of lower popularity of the retreat events, and less exposure to individuals (actual folks who serve overseas or out of the south).

2. We do much less missions education in our churches. We do more direct missions but such is narrowly focused and highly limited. Other programs have supplanted the old Mission Friends, RAs, GAs, and Acteens. These are not as focused on missions and often point to independent missions organizations.

3. The role of the WMU has been set aside in many SBC churches in favor of general women's ministries that feature good teaching and solid events but much less focus on missions.

4. Most Southern Baptists, even pastors, have only a limited awareness of the considerable array of opportunities available to them and their members for missions service.

My impression of the Send Conference is that NAMB and IMB are doing there best to help the local church and pastor in doing missions in whatever context that church, pastor, and member feels called and compelled to do.

It is the job of NAMB and IMB to do that. I appreciate the fresh approach.

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