McNairy, through the outreach he has founded, Urban Fusion Network, is partnering with Baptist leaders in a state with the highest percentage of African Americans of any state in the union, at nearly 40 percent.
Among 2,000-plus Southern Baptist churches in Mississippi, meanwhile, only 40 are predominantly African American.
David Michel, mission strategy director with the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, said Southern Baptists cannot afford to overlook such a large segment of the state.
"Chris McNairy is working with Baptist leaders to build new Gospel-centered collaborations in the four regions of the state with the largest black concentrations," Michel told Baptist Press. "The work is slow because of the historic racial barriers that exist, but we are praying for redemptive breakthroughs that will result in new Kingdom expressions of faithfulness and compassion."
McNairy launched Urban Fusion Network after more than a decade with the North American Mission Board in several front-line roles, most recently coordinating church planting efforts in the District of Columbia. He also has served as African American missions leader with the Baptist State Convention of Michigan and as a pastor in Memphis, Tenn.
McNairy envisions the Urban Fusion Network as a network of Great Commission-minded Christians, churches and others focused primarily on urban missions in spreading the Gospel and enhancing Christian disciple-making. At the African American Advisory Council meeting in Atlanta in February, McNairy set forth the network's disciple-making model and an overview of his work in Mississippi.
For McNairy, the central question is: "How can we engage from a Kingdom mindset and a biblical worldview to collaboratively plant the Gospel?'"
"That's what we're working through ," McNairy told Baptist Press. "It's about us as Christians saying, What does 'Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven' really look like in 2014?"
"The Kingdom is not a subset of the SBC. The SBC is a subset of the Kingdom," McNairy said. "I understand there is one biblical worldview. We as a body of Christ must begin to embrace what this looks like as we work both within our own family denominationally and collaborate with others," he said. "We're seeing this played out in all places in America, and God is blessing me to be a part and to see this being played out in Mississippi."
McNairy has mapped four regions as "priority zones" in Mississippi for an ongoing prayer emphasis, racial and denominational reconciliation, joint worship experiences and shared equipping, evangelism and missions work. The zones reflect a missional analysis of peoples, places, interests, needs and godliness -- elements of what McNairy calls "mapping" to discover current realities of the mission field.
"In late spring of 2013, work began in the Delta which includes the North Delta Baptist Association and the Mid-Delta Baptist Association. We began work in the Jackson metro zone in January of this year and we hope to begin work in the northwest Mississippi and Gulf Coast zones later this year," McNairy said. "We are being very respectful of the fact that each of these areas unique. … God is already at work and there are other disciples who have joined His work."
A typical missional strategy of planting churches, however, may have only limited success in the African American community, McNairy said.
"Records reflect that more than 50 percent of black SBC churches were churches before becoming a part of the SBC," he said, noting, "The peoples of the African Diaspora are the most spiritual of the six major diasporas that have immigrated to America." While a tendency toward spirituality "does not equate to disciples with a biblical worldview," it does point toward the effectiveness in some newer churches of "Gospel planting strategies with prayer and evangelism at the core."
For McNairy, the key "success metric" is "increasing the number of disciples" through "building successful frameworks of Gospel-planting collaborations among Southern Baptists, other likeminded Great Commission churches and denominations, as well as building and maintaining community partnerships that enhance the Kingdom work."
In his upcoming book, "Who Are We Now? Planting the Gospel Among African Diaspora Blacks in America and Canada," McNairy said he intends to share current and projected demographic realities and evangelistic strategies, explore worldviews of peoples of the African diaspora and share approaches to engaging and partnering with established churches.
Already available at amazon.com are McNairy's book, "Missional Urban Fusion: Planting the Gospel in 21st Century America" and the accompanying workbook "Christians Responding to America's 21st Century Urban Fusion Realities."
"We're not in the segregated America that we used to live in," McNairy said in a 2013 Baptist Press story, "but neither are we in a post-racial America. … We're in what I call an urban fusion America, where we are 80 percent urban as a nation. …
"Urban is much broader than black," he noted, pointing to a "fusion of peoples who have come from everywhere to America, so much so until there's no place on the planet like America" -- where "worldviews cross-pollinate beyond skin color ethnicity."
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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