The task confronting missionaries who labor in the homeland differs somewhat
from the challenge facing missionaries overseas. Those representing Christ
around the globe encounter a breadth of lostness that's breathtaking--so many
people who have yet to hear the gospel.
But the missionaries who toil in the homeland sense a depth of lostness that
leaves them gasping. We live in a land where the influence of Christianity is
indisputable, but its grip so weak in some places that it works to defuse
rather than ignite the power of the gospel. In North America so many have a
nodding acquaintance with a cultural brand of Christianity that missionary
attempts to espouse a gospel that changes individual lives are often shrugged
PHOTO BY Don Rutledge
The last frontiersRising to that challenge, homeland
missionaries are working hard to bore through to the North American soul,
focusing their efforts on areas of the country and people groups that remain
unaffected by the gospel--our urban centers, the Northeast and inner cities, for
example. North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionaries, most of whom work in
conjunction with state Southern Baptist conventions and local associations,
take the gospel beyond the influence of existing churches and pave the way to
places where churches and other Christians can follow and join them in their
work. These are places both on the fringes and deep in the heart of the
homeland, identified less by geography than by the absence of Southern Baptist
For example, collegiate minister Andy Haynes works with students in
Providence, Rhode Island. Because New England is the historic hub of collegiate
education a significant portion of world leaders are educated there he considers
penetrating the North American collegiate landscape vital to a postmodern
This generation has no relationship to church and has very misconstrued
ideas of God, Haynes points out. The reigning pluralism is very confusing.
His efforts in Rhode Island, which boasts seven universities in Providence
alone, have been effective. A Bible study instituted just three years ago with
a handful of students at Johnson and Wales University, a respected culinary
school, has multiplied into several more, including a large one that is
attended by 25 to 30 students. A Bible study at Brown University is also in the
At 26, Haynes finds the rejection of Christ by students and faculty alike
somewhat disheartening, yet hes inspired by the inroads Christ is making. Its
By contrast, in southern California missionary Don Overstreet focuses on
down and outersthe homeless, drug users, the poor and ex-prisonersand
assimilates them into congregations called Set Free Christian Fellowships,
designed exclusively for the outcasts of society. He sets up a band in a front
yard on a weekend night, for example, and his informal outdoor music fest
attracts a crowd.
Those who respond to the gospel are not expected to then show up at a
typical church the next Sunday but are invited to a ranch in a trailer park
community to spend the next 60 days. Offering rehab saturated with Bible study,
the ranch provides stability and manifests the Set Free mission. First we want
to introduce them to Christ, but we also help them make their lives whole,
Overstreet says. Fellowship schools also help rehabilitate lives, providing job
training in computer, machine shop or silk screening. Also, pastor schools
develop leaders for new church plants. Defined as churches with a ministry
rather than as a ministry, these are fellowships where hymns are not heard.
Instead, rap, hip-hop or old rock and roll tunes with Christian lyrics lead the
way to worship.
The first fellowship was started eight years ago in an area southeast of
downtown Los Angeles through the efforts of church planter Willie Daldity.
Since then, under the combined efforts of NAMB, the state convention and Inland
Empire Association, 15 more have been planted in southern California. Three
more have been planted in each of the cities of San Diego, Seattle and
The missionary taskIn their attempts to plumb the
depths of lostness in the homeland, missionaries have resolved there is no
place off-limits to the gospel. Missionary chaplain Ken Welborn works in the
United Nations. He actively seeks to develop relationships with UN ambassadors
and diplomats representing 189 countries in order to share Christ. To create
interest he uses special events, like one featuring Billy Graham as keynote
PHOTO BY Laura Sikes
Welborn follows up on requests for Bibles in their own language or JESUS
videos, visiting ambassadors offices, attending their receptions and praying
Educated in the field of world religions, he offers to pray with people of
any faith and has encountered great receptivity, even with heads of state.
Although his ministry results in only occasional professions of faith, Welborn
doesnt underestimate the global influence. (For more
information about Ken Welborn's ministry at the UN see March-April 2001 issue of
Knowing that here in the homeland we work hard at our leisure, NAMB has
utilized that preoccupation to share Christ by directing missionary efforts to
resort areas. For example, in Mobile, Alabama, missionary Jeffrey Ford oversees
outreach efforts to campgrounds and beaches, using special events, Bible clubs
and worship services to reach snowbirders and vacationers.
Campers who don't ordinarily attend church at home may attend a worship
service on campgrounds, providing their first exposure to the gospel.
Last summer Ford, who works in cooperation with the state convention and
association, coordinated 27 groups of student volunteers. And while resort
ministry is often considered a seed-planting effort, he recorded 57 decisions
for Christ during the season.
The majority of the 5,154 NAMB missionaries who serve in North America are
church planters, but others, like Ken Welborn and Jeffrey Ford, share the gospel
message by ministering to the needs of specific people groups.
Every missionary, including those starting traditional churches, makes
valuable contributions to the cause. But a new breed of missionary, students of
the culture and innovators who can strategize and think creatively daring to go
outside the box are taking Christ into the new millennium. For example, Siam
Rogers is NAMBs first Internet evangelism missionary. He helps develop and
maintain NAMB's evangelistic web sites and monitors the activity there. By
definition, the information highway directs, perhaps even drives people to the
knowledge they seek. Rogers also hopes to equip churches and individuals to use
the Internet evangelistically. Indeed, Rogers has discovered that users are
searching for Jesus, often at the lonely hour of 3 a.m. And with web sites like
available, they can find Him right where they are--wherever that may be. Recently
he received a response from a Pakistani Muslim who confessed his decision to
follow Christ. His next question: What should I do now?
Heeding the callAll missionary personnel must meet
certain qualifications to be approved for service, but for any Christian who
desires to serve, there are avenues and places to jump in, no matter their
background and past experience. Although key strategies implemented by
NAMB evangelism, church planting and mobilizing lay Christians prioritize the
efforts needed to confront the lostness of North America, Jesus Christ Himself
addressed the pivotal issue that will likely determine success or failure of
the task at hand.
In His timeless charge to His disciples, Jesus said: The harvest is
plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to
send out workers into his harvest field (Matthew 9:37).
For now, the demand still overwhelms the supply. NAMB receives more requests
for missionary help than applicants.
State conventions and associations continue to seek more capable and skilled
missionaries, especially as they plow new ground in church planting and
infiltrating urban settings. The need for ethnic leaders never abates but
clamors to be filled by qualified, willing people. We need laborers.
Funding the North American Mission
Those Christians who heed the call to go to the hard places often turn to
NAMB for support. Such was the case of Andy Haynes, who works with students in
Providence, Rhode Island. He knew where he wanted to minister long before he
knew how to realize that vision.
NAMB works in partnership with the 42 Southern
Baptist state conventions, fellowships and the Canadian Convention of Southern
Baptists to jointly fund and appoint most missionaries. The Southern Baptist
world-wide mission enterprise is funded in large part through the SBCs
A portion of the undesignated tithes and offerings of individuals received
by SBC churches becomes Cooperative Program dollars. For example, in 2000,
these churches sent more than $486 million through the Cooperative Program to
their state conventions to support work within the state and the Southern
Baptist Convention. As determined by messengers to the annual session of each
state convention, a percentage of these Cooperative Program receipts is sent to
the SBC Executive Committee for distribution to SBC entities such as the North
American Mission Board and the International Mission Board, just to name a two.
In 2000, an average of 58 percent of total Cooperative Program receipts was
used for state convention ministries, and roughly 42 percent was forwarded to
the SBC for national and world-wide ministries.
Of that 42 percent, 22.79 percent ($39,355,817 in 2001) is allocated to
NAMB. These funds are supplemented by the annual Annie Armstrong Easter
Offering for North American Missions ($48,320,018 in 2001) and miscellaneous
income from other gifts, sales, events and investments ($24,466,869 in 2001) to
provide NAMBs financial resources ($112,142,704 million in 2001) for the North
Since 1895 the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (AAEO) also has helped
provide homeland missionaries the financial support they need. To date, more
than $800 million has been received through AAEO. Missionaries also receive
valuable prayer support through the annual Week of Prayer emphasis in
conjunction with AAEO.
Of the 5,154 total missionaries sent by NAMB, 36 percent1,878
missionaries operate in a quasi-volunteer capacity. Like career missionaries,
Mission Service Corp (MSC) personnel must apply to be considered for a
position, but they supply their own funding while serving in roles for four
months or longer. NAMB offers key support to these missionaries, not through
salary, but with training and other resources.
Self-funded missionaries like Mission Service Corp personnel do not usually
take the place of career missionaries. Instead, they serve in places of need
where otherwise no one would be serving, bringing flexibility to the mission
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC