Native Americans to build urban strategy

Baptist Press
Posted: Apr 25, 2014 4:52 PM
BALTIMORE (BP) -- A church planting strategy to reach Native Americans in major cities and an effort to make Native churches less dependent on outside help will be among the topics of discussion when Native Americans and those interested in Native American ministry gather for the June 9 meeting of the Fellowship of Native American Christians.

Attendees also will discuss developing resources to facilitate church planting, leadership development and evangelism among Native Americans.

"We invite anyone who is presently involved in Native ministries or anyone who desires a better understanding of Native ministries to attend our meeting to explore potential network possibilities," FoNAC executive director Gary Hawkins said. "We are going to discuss some possible paradigm changes."

The Fellowship of Native American Christians was established in 2008 to advance Southern Baptist ministries among Native Americans. Hawkins was elected as FoNAC's first executive director during its 2012 annual meeting in New Orleans.

FoNAC's upcoming meeting will take place in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention's June 10-11 annual meeting in Baltimore at the Baltimore Convention Center. The FoNAC meeting will begin at 10 a.m. Monday, June 9, in Rooms 345 and 346 of the convention center.

FoNAC chairman Emerson Falls said an urban church planting strategy is urgent since 75 percent of Native Americans live in urban areas, with more than 100,000 estimated in New York City alone. Yet most mission teams seeking to reach Natives travel to reservations.

Falls compared urban church planting among Natives to the apostle Paul's preaching of the Gospel in Rome. After diverse people came to Christ in a major hub of social life and commerce, they spread Christianity across the Roman Empire by returning to their homelands.

"A lot of Native people in urban areas will eventually go back to their own tribal groups," said Falls, who also serves as Native American specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. "So by reaching them in urban areas, we're going to also reach out into these other areas."

Ministry on the reservations remains important, but many reservation ministries need to adopt new strategies, Falls said. Just as Natives are learning to succeed in business and gain independence from government assistance, Native churches must learn to succeed in ministry without a steady stream of assistance from outside churches, he said.

"When we have strong Native churches, generally the Native people do it themselves without outside resources," Falls said, adding that mission teams are appreciated but should complement Native ministries rather than replace them.

Falls and Hawkins pray that God uses the strategies discussed in Baltimore to bring a new level of fruitfulness in Native ministry. Hawkins requested prayer from Southern Baptists during the FoNAC meeting and the entire month of November, which is national Native American Heritage Month. FoNAC will provide a list of prayer concerns from across Native America on its website and Facebook page.

"What we're proposing to do is a God-sized task," Hawkins said. "With that realization, we understand that it cannot just be strategies that we develop, but a movement that God has ordained. And we really request prayer support from around the world."

For more information about ministry to Native peoples in the United States and Canada, visit

David Roach is Baptist Press' chief national correspondent. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( and in your email (

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