Engaging nations focus of conf., outreach

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) -- As white supremacists are planning anti-immigration rallies for this weekend in Tennessee, Southern Baptist church planters across the United States and local church members have gathered in North Carolina to find ways to welcome and share the Gospel with those from many nations.

The Yard has provided pathways for local church members to build relationships with resettled refugees while being the hands and feet of Christ.
Photo courtesy of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
In conjunction with the Reaching the Nations conference this weekend (Oct. 27-28), the Practitioners Collaborative took place Thursday afternoon and Friday morning at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. Attendees included church planters who are working throughout North America with unreached people groups, some of whom are also leading breakout sessions throughout the Reaching the Nations event.

"The Practitioners Collaborative ... is a select few of those who have already committed themselves to the work of disciple making [through] church planting among unreached or unengaged people groups in North America," said Zac Lyons, senior consultant of Great Commission partnerships for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and a strategic partner in its Peoples Next Door effort to reach those from other nations.

The meetings, Lyons noted, were a time for church planters to partner to encourage and help one another in strategic planning for their ministries.

In conjunction with the Reaching the Nations conference this weekend (Oct. 27-28), the Practitioners Collaborative took place Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.
Photo by Maria Estes/Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
"We're providing just enough structure for the practitioners in the room to have good conversations with one another about topics that are pertinent to what they're wrestling through," said Lyons, who also noted that a survey was made available with potential discussion items for the meeting prior to attending.

During the meeting, Lyons presented the following question to the 31 attendees: "How will what you are doing now lead to seeing generational growth among your focus people to the end of seeing that people reached?"

Church leaders were challenged to communicate their ideas by first drawing pictures and then explaining them to partners. They collaborated on key elements of strategy, including how to create reproducing churches, raise up church leaders native to a particular people group, capitalize on outside resources, and how to reach immigrants of various generations. There were also smaller group discussions that focused on developing effective ways for sharing the Gospel with particular affinities.

Meanwhile, children and adult volunteers gathered in the park of Duke Manor in Durham that same afternoon to hear a gospel presentation, sing songs, play games and have a snack. This effort began when Ashley Unzicker, a member of nearby The Summit Church and mom of three, had a desire to create a way to build relationships and bring the Gospel to the apartment complex, where many Middle Eastern and South Asian refugees are resettled.

The program called The Yard, which takes place every Thursday, began in July. This is a time where kids of any age can come hear a story from the Bible, learn English words from the story and play a game.

"While visiting resettled refugees one hot summer day in the city of Durham, my friends and I brought water balloons for the children to play with," Unzicker said. "Before we knew it, 20 kids and their parents were there and ready to play. We grabbed a Jesus Storybook Bible from the car, read the first story and taught 10 corresponding English words. Before we knew it, The Yard was born."

The Yard has provided pathways for local church members to build relationships with resettled refugees while being the hands and feet of Christ. Opportunities have extended beyond The Yard, providing believers a way to meet with families in Duke Manor apartments for English lessons, personal visits and play dates.

"Currently, there are anywhere from 10-20 volunteers that show up weekly to share God's Word, teach English and simply be friends with people who reside in this particular apartment complex," Unzicker said. "God's Word is now in the homes of people from Syria, Sudan, Eritrea, Central Africa Republic, DRC, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to name a few. And His Word will not return void!"

More than 320 people are attending the Reaching the Nations conference, hosted by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The conference is a focused weekend on learning about how to effectively engage unreached and unengaged people groups with the Gospel in North America. Reaching the Nations is sponsored by the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, North Carolina Baptists and Peoples Next Door. Speakers include Danny Akin, Chris Clayman, J.D. Greear, J.D. Payne and Bryant Wright.

To view the live stream of Reaching the Nations, visit https://www.facebook.com/sebts.

Lauren Pratt is Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's news and information specialist.
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