HOUSTON – Advocates of Christian missions must recognize that doing missions in the 21st century is a far different enterprise than it was even a few decades ago, Rob Nash told participants in a commissioning service for six new missionaries affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Speaking to a full house at Houston’s historic South Main Baptist Church for the July 1 service, Nash recalled what it was like getting off the boat in the Philippines as the son of a missionary couple in 1964. Once per year, he said, his parents traveled to a phone booth in Manila and placed a short long-distance call to family back home.
The isolated nature of mission work in those days had more in common with the 17th century than with now, said Nash, who is CBF’s global missions coordinator. Noting the multi-functionality of the globally capable cell phone he now uses, Nash said mission strategists need to do the same kind of thinking that brought technology from a rare operator-assisted long-distance call to the multiple capabilities of an Internet-enabled cell phone.
Missions advocates are faced with several realities, Nash said. While the world once had large areas that were completely unevangelized, Christian people can now be found almost everywhere. Mission strategists can no longer rely on old methods alone because Christians in the global church are also standing at the global missions table, he said, and “We need to listen to them.”
Finally, Nash said, the greatest missions resource is found in congregations who are also finding their place at the missions table, and “nothing could be more significant.”
Looking down the road, Nash said, mission strategy will be less centralized, and will involve more self-sustaining networks of passion-driven churches, individuals, and partners, networks that focus on particular areas or ministries and stand on their own. “We’re called to think outside the box,” Nash said. “How far out of the box are we willing to think?”
All of the newly commissioned personnel will serve as “As You Go Affiliates” who either earn or raise their own financial support.
Cecelia Beck, who previously served as a Global Service Corps missionary in Toronto, Canada, will work in Shelby, NC. In affiliation with “Northeast Shelby Weed and Seed,” she engages in social ministry designed to help communities collaborate to prevent and control crime and improve their overall quality of life.
John and Michele Norman live in Four Oaks, NC, where John is pastor of Four Oaks Baptist Church. The Normans, who have adopted two children from China, will work to develop a network of U.S. individuals and churches to pray for, financially support, and actively participate in the work of CBF in China.
The Sichuan China Ministry Network, which focuses on ministry in the Sichuan Province of China, was also featured during the service. The network of churches and individuals includes South Main Baptist in Houston; First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, TN; Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta; and CBF field personnel Bill and Michelle Cayard, who serve in the Sichuan Province.
Christy Craddock, who recently completed a two-year appointment as a Global Service Corps missionary, will continue to serve through “Touching Miami with Love,” a ministry center in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood, one of the poorest areas in Florida. Craddock said she felt led to continue with the ministry, which local supporters will help to finance.
Gabe Orea, a native of Mexico City, will work in partnership with registered churches in China, focusing on building relationships and ministry with the most neglected and least evangelized people in the city of Xiamen in the Fujian province.