That's what Chris McNairy, a leader on the North American Mission Board's multiethnic mobilization team, told about 40 pastors and leaders at the 2011 Ethnic Leadership Summit at NAMB's offices in Alpharetta, Ga.
Twenty-seven Southern Baptist Convention ethnic fellowships and networks encompass an array of people groups: African, African American, Cambodian, Chinese, Deaf, Filipino, Greek, Ghanian, Haitian, Hispanic, Hmong, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Middle Eastern, Messianic, Multiethnic, Native American, Polish, Brazilian, Romanian, Slavic, Ukrainian and Vietnamese. Most were represented at the two-day summit.
"We all are responsible for reaching the lost," McNairy said, referring to ethnic and Anglo Christian leaders alike. "The largest categories of people are just two: the saved and the lost. And at the end of the day, the saved are responsible for the lost." The "job description" of sinners, he said, is to sin, while the saints' job description is to lead sinners to Christ.
"Today, which one is not fulfilling their assignment?" McNairy asked rhetorically.
The ethnic leaders from across the U.S. and Canada also heard from Kevin Ezell, NAMB's president, and Sing Oldham, an SBC Executive Committee vice president, who underscored how important they are in their spheres of influence and in NAMB's new overarching Send North America strategy for planting churches.
"Send North America is a way for NAMB and our state partners to plant hundreds and thousands of more churches in North America," Ezell said. "But Send North America also gives us greater flexibility to work with groups like yours. We want to partner with you as we move forward. We need your help in encouraging your churches to step up to the plate and partner with us to plant more churches."
NAMB's Send North America strategy will benefit ethnic networks and churches more than other groups because "many of you are already established in the 26 'send cities' we're focusing on," Ezell noted.
NAMB has reorganized into five regions -- Northeast, South, Midwest, West and Canada. The "send cities" currently are New York, Washington/Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, San Francisco/Palo Alto, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Denver, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.
The major dispersions of immigrants throughout the United States involve Africans, Asians, Europeans, Latinos and those of Middle Eastern descent, McNairy said. "But of the top sending countries to the United States, one-third of the people are coming from Mexico," he said, adding, "There are 650,000 international students here -- two-thirds of them of Asian descent.
"Don't we have the responsibility to reach them all?" McNairy asked.
McNairy urged the ethnic fellowship and network leaders to "participate in the system" -- referring to the SBC's annual meeting, state conventions and local associations.
"If you choose to stay outside and don't participate, and don't encourage the people you lead to be in the system, they don't get counted," McNairy said. "We have to be diligent and come to grips on these things. Our information is skewed because we're not taking the time to differentiate ourselves. Some of your people are not registered in the ACP," the SBC's Annual Church Profile database.
Echoing McNairy, Ken Weathersby, NAMB's associate vice president for multiethnic mobilization and equipping, said, "We can't do our work in a vacuum. We make better decisions when we have the best information."
Weathersby emphasized that, for example, African American churches must plant Hispanic churches and Japanese churches must plant Korean churches and Slavic churches must plant Chinese churches -- not just churches of their own ethnic group.
Using NAMB's new Northeast Region as an example, Weathersby said there are some 1,000 SBC churches in that part of the country.
"The Northeast represents 25 percent of the United States' population, or 78 million people. But how can we expect 1,000 churches to reach 78 million people? Or should we all work together across cultures to plant new churches? That's what Send North America is all about."
During their May 23-24 meeting, the 40 ethnic leaders unanimously affirmed the initiative of Paul Kim, a Korean multiethnic church planter and pastor in Boston who, at the 2009 SBC annual meeting, introduced a motion regarding ethnic involvement in the convention.
"It's about time Southern Baptists of all ethnic backgrounds worked together," Kim said. "That's why I introduced the motion. We are all one family and can achieve more work for the Kingdom together." Kim exhorted his counterparts to attend local, state and national Southern Baptist meetings. "Let people know who you are. Why do we even have to have so many ethnic fellowships rather than be one working together?"
Oldham reported on the SBC Executive Committee study group which, over the last two years, conducted an extensive review of the history and participation of ethnic churches and ethnic church leaders in the SBC and how they can be more actively involved in serving within the convention.
As a result of the group's study, the Executive Committee made 10 recommendations to be voted on in Phoenix. Among them:
-- SBC entities will report on the participation of ethnic churches and church leaders in the life and ministry of those entities.
-- Newly elected SBC presidents would be encouraged to give special attention to appointing individuals representing the diversity within the convention.
-- The president would be encouraged to select annual meeting program personalities representing the ethnic diversity within the SBC.
-- SBC entities would give due consideration to the recruitment and employment of qualified individuals to serve in various professional staff positions, on seminary faculty and as appointed missionaries in order to reflect ethnic diversity within SBC life.
-- The Executive Committee will receive a report from its communications workgroup each February concerning the participation of ethnic churches and leaders in the life and ministry of the SBC entities.
The Executive Committee also will recommend in Phoenix that the Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference and other groups that meet in conjunction with the SBC annual meeting "be sensitive to the desire of our ethnic brothers and sisters in Christ to see and hear individuals from their ... cultural heritages…."
To the ethnic groups, the Executive Committee will recommend that their leaders and church members "involve themselves to the highest level possible in associational life and through state convention ministries so that their participation in broader denominational life becomes the platform from which their greater involvement in visible roles of leadership in the Convention will naturally follow."
Those attending the ethnic summit included the following ethnic pastors and leaders from ethnic fellowships and networks located throughout the U.S. and Canada:
Luis Rosales, vice president of the National Hispanic Fellowship; Tegga Lendado, African Baptist Fellowship; James Dixon, African American Fellowship of SBC; Frank Williams, Black Church Leadership Network of New York; Jon Langford, Anglo-multiethnic leader and interim pastor of Rehoboth Baptist Church, Tucker, Ga.; Mati Joseph, Multiethnic Fellowship, Metro New York Baptist Association; Kan Chantha, Cambodian Baptist Fellowship; Lennox Zamore, Caribbean Baptist Fellowship; Peter Leong, Chinese Baptist Fellowship of U.S. and Canada; Galahad Cheung, Chinese Baptist Fellowship of Canada; Ted Lam, Chinese Church Planning Initiative; Jim Dermon, Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf; Loren Chong, English Ministry Network; Roger Manao, Filipino Baptist Fellowship; Jacques Avakian, a French-Canadian worker, Montreal; Samuel Opoku, Ghanian North American Assembly; Joseph Gaston, Haitian Baptist Fellowship SBC; Na Herr, Hmong Baptist National Association; Yhutaka Takarada, Japanese Baptist Fellowship USA; Ken Suziki, Japanese Church Planting Network; Chongoh Aum, Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America; Kyung Tae Cha, Korean Home Mission Board; Pat Anongdeth, Laotian Fellowship SBC; Ric Worshill, Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship; Jason Al-Nimri, Middle Eastern pastor; Tyrone Barnette, a multiethnic leader from Tucker, Ga.; Paul Kim, multiethnic leader from Boston; Russell Begaye, Ethnic America Network; Emerson Falls, Fellowship of Native American Christians; Dan BK, Nepali church planter; Mark Szajner, Polish Fellowship SBC; Jedaias Azevedo, Brazilian Baptist Association of North America; Ted Cocian, Romanian Baptist Association-East Coast; Nikolay Bugriyev, Pacific Coast Slavic Evangelical Baptist Association; Anatoly Moshkovsky, Slavic Church Planting Network; Thira Siengsukon, Thai Leadership; Paul Demianik, Western Ukrainian Baptist Association; and Christian Phan, Vietnamese Fellowship of SBC.
Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.
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