League City pastor wants students, children to catch vision for world missions efforts

DICKINSON?Concerned that the church could be one generation away from being unable to send and support field missionaries, Jerry Williams wanted to ensure the work of Southern Baptists’ missionaries was heard and seen by children and teenagers.

“This is about bringing them face to face with the world God is working in,” said Williams as he looked around the crowded gym at a Houston-area missions event. Stationed around the room were missionaries who serve overseas, in the United States, and in the Houston area. They stood by their displays ready to share their stories.

Williams, pastor of Anchor Baptist Church in League City, and a member of the “On Mission Celebration” Committee of the Galveston Baptist Association, coordinated the On Mission Celebration, held April 9-13. It was one of only three scheduled for Texas this year?evidence in part of a trend by larger churches to host their own missions fairs, said Martin King, Convention Relations Team director at Southern Baptists’ North American Mission Board (NAMB).

Beth Bootz, an associate in NAMB’s Partnership Events Unit, said she was surprised that a state the size of Texas would only have three OMC events this year when there are 77 scheduled throughout the nation. The event?coordinated on the associational level with the support of NAMB and the International Mission Board?requires extensive planning and can be costly, a factor that may keep some smaller, less financially equipped associations from participating, she said. King said larger churches can afford to transport, house and compensate guest speakers.

Kenny Rains, NAMB Partnership Events Unit manager, said another reason for the static growth of the OMC is that there are so many other “delivery systems” for missionaries to tell their stories. The OMC has become one of several missions events scheduled throughout the SBC each year. Rains added that because of the many available venues in which to share their stories, missionaries must pick and choose which events to attend while on furlough.

In Texas, missions events are coordinated through local churches and with the help of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention personnel. Gibbie McMillan, SBTC Missions Services associate and NAMB missionary, said the OMCs and similar events are “putting a face to missions ? they’re giving people the opportunity to become personally involved in missions. They can say they know a missionary.”

In February McMillan attended a Global Impact Celebration at Great Hills Church in Austin. He said such non-OMC events serve the same purpose in that they allow congregations to “meet, greet and treat” missionaries. Those in attendance, McMillan said, “just loved on” the missionaries. It became an “iron sharpening iron” occasion?encouraging each other to fulfill the Great Commission.

Every Christian is to be on mission, he added. “What we are when we accept Christ is missionaries.” And for those who cannot go to the field, even for a two-week church-sponsored trip, getting to know a missionary and hear the stories of how God is working among people that missionary touches is the next best thing.

That’s exactly what Williams hoped to accomplish. Children and teens from area churches roamed the aisles at the missions fair seeking treats from foreign lands, playing games and asking questions about the displays. Williams wanted the missionaries to engage the children by giving them age-appropriate activities to complete while at the fair. Williams said most missionaries testify to being called into missions at a young age. Accordingly, he created a questionnaire for the teenagers to use when speaking with the missionaries. His hope was that if God was working in the hearts of young people, asking those in the field pointed questions on the subject could help them recognize and respond to a call to missions work.

“That’s what this is really about. We don’t want a whole generation lost to missions,” Williams said. It is expected for older people to support missionaries, he said, but the younger church members need to be introduced to who the missionaries are and what they do.

McMillan agreed with Williams’ assessment that the church could be one generation away from being able to follow Christ’s command to “go into all the world.” “If we don’t recapture or renew our vision in the SBC, we are one generation from being extinct.”

“We’re not connecting the dots,” Williams said. If asked, most Southern Baptists would say missions are an important aspect of church ministry. But, he said, when you ask them how they personally are accomplishing that task, “all of a sudden you’re going to get a big blank stare.”

Williams said it is vital for pastors to keep missions and evangelism fresh in the mi

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