Missions survey points to areas where KBC can help churches

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – A missions participation survey conducted by the Kentucky Baptist Convention showed a majority of church respondents have an intentional prayer strategy, are active in local missions, and give through the Cooperative Program.

KBC Missions Strategist Doug Williams spearheaded the survey, which garnered replies from 246 churches affiliated with KBC and the Southern Baptist Convention. The surveys were sent by email to 1,092 church leaders in the state, promoted on KBC’s social media channels, and distributed at events in late winter.

“The survey’s purpose was to help the Missions Mobilization Team learn about the missions involvement of Kentucky Baptist churches and how we can better help them reach our state and the world for Christ,” said Williams.

As a member of the Missions Mobilization Team, Williams works with pastors and church leaders to help them develop an "Acts 1:8" strategy that reflects the gifts and personality of their specific church. He also connects churches with missionaries and church planters in Kentucky, North America and the world to fulfill the Great Commission.

“The first question dealt with the foundation of the Great Commission,” Williams said, “and that is prayer.”

Of respondents, 51% indicated their church has an intentional prayer strategy, which is described as every ministry of the church praying for specific missions efforts and the expectation that every individual is praying for God’s missionary work in the world.

“If churches are to see a great movement of God in their cities and among the nations, it will begin with an earnest, intentional, and consistent plan of prayer,” Williams said.

In a video to churches about the survey results, KBC Executive Director Todd Gray said prayer begins with a prompting of the Holy Spirit and is directed by relationships. He said the number one way for churches to pray for missionaries is to get to know missionaries. “If you know them and are hearing about their burden and hearing about the difficulties they are facing, it will cause us to cry out to God.”

In the area of missions participation, 75% of churches reported being active in local outreach. Missions engagement in a community could be operating a food pantry or clothing closet. Local missions also could be organizing a vacation Bible school or a back-to-school drive for disadvantaged children. For some churches, local missions means going door to door sharing the gospel, and inviting people to worship services.

However, when asked the follow-up question about whether their church ever partnered with the KBC or Southern Baptist Convention for local missions, only 20% said they did.

Similar statistics were reported for national and global missions work conducted by churches. Of responding churches, 46% engage missionally somewhere in North America and 57% are involved in global missions. Yet only 22% partner with the North American Mission Board for their national engagement and only 30% partner with the International Mission Board or Baptist Global Response when reaching out globally with the gospel.

“So, what did we find?” Williams asked. “For one, our churches are much more engaged locally than nationally or even internationally, and when they do engage in any kind of missions, they often partner outside of the KBC and SBC family.”

Under the umbrella of the Southern Baptist Convention are two missionary-sending organizations—the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board—both of which have ministries and missionaries focused on reaching as many individuals and people groups as they can with the eternal hope found in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. IMB alone has 3,670 missionaries serving outside the North American continent. Williams works to connect churches with a number of these international missionaries, as well as church planters serving in the NAMB SEND cities of Chicago, Cincinnati, New York City, and Salt Lake City.

“There is ample opportunity to connect within our family,” Williams said, including the many bi-vocational church planters serving in the state.

Like Mike Raftery, a retired Navy cryptologic technician from Bronx, N.Y., who is now “knocking on every door in one of the toughest places in the state,” Gray said. “Once a church learned about him, they wanted to help him financially.”

Raftery serves as the pastor of Williamsburg Street Lighthouse Church in Whitley City.

“Almost every one of the church planters in Kentucky is bi-vocational and every one of them in a difficult financial situation,” Gray said.

Williams said he was “extremely encouraged” by survey respondents who reported an overwhelming 96% give to the Cooperative Program—the funding mechanism that supports all the Kentucky and Southern Baptist conventions do to further the kingdom.

“There is nothing like the Cooperative Program as a tool for funding ministries and missionaries around the world,” Gray said. “We’ve decided since 1925 that our best approach to missions is to do it cooperatively.”

That generous spirit exhibited by churches also carries over to contributing to other missions causes as 85% of churches said they give outside the Cooperative Program.

Williams pointed to five components every church can do to increase missions focus regardless of the budget or culture, and it’s modeled on Acts 13. “Every church can pray. Every church can do evangelism. Every church can help with church planting. Every church can encourage, which is so vital for missionaries, and the fifth is equip; pouring into people and disciple-making.”

“Ultimately, we believe the Great Commission was given to the local church and we’re all about helping the local church do what God has called them to do,” Williams said. “Don’t try and cover every area all at once. Take the first, next step. Your first step may be engaging your Jerusalem - your community - with the gospel. Or maybe you haven’t done anything nationally and you need to find a partner in another state.”

Williams said the Missions Mobilization Team wants to come alongside churches and help leaders evaluate where they are concerning missions by using self-examination tools like the Map Assessment Profile.

Gray called MAP a simple, non-threatening approach to helping churches take that next step.

“It’s a privilege for us to get to partner with our churches,” Gray said and encouraged pastors to reach out to him or Williams to learn about more ways the Kentucky Baptist Convention can help churches reach the world for Christ.

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