FORT WORTH—Ian Buntain, director of the World Missions Center and associate professor of missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), said the idea behind the inaugural Sending Church Conference was sparked by a conversation he had with his grandson.
During a discussion about Romans 10:14-15, which says, in part, “How then are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? How are they to believe in Him whom they have not heard?” the grandson asked a simple, yet convicting question: Why doesn’t everybody know about Jesus?
That question, and those verses, provided the inspiration for the conference, held March 16 at the seminary’s Riley Center.
“The purpose for this conference is to be a bit subversive, a bit disruptive, to reverse the current flow of church culture, and to remind us again that we began as a people of God, as Southern Baptists, for the sake of sending missionaries,” said Buntain, a former missionary to Asia who organized the conference and served as its keynote speaker. “I want to offer this conference to encourage believers to become full-time missionaries and to offer resources to those interested in missions.”
Stu Cocanougher, who serves as the share strategy pastor at Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth— spoke at the conference and said most Christians Americans do not regularly engage in cross-cultural ministry even though all Christians are called to engage in such efforts. “As Christians, we love global missions, but we don’t practice it,” he said. “We are great fans of missionaries, but we think that we can never be that.
“For every one Southern Baptist that goes to the nations as [a missionary], 3,879 choose to stay. Going and sending is in the very nature of God,” Cocanougher added. In addition to speaking, he taught a workshop called “Leading Your Church to Create Effective Cross-Cultural Ministries” and gave participants numerous ideas about how to minister to their communities through their church.
Barry Calhoun, a church mobilization strategist for the International Mission Board (IMB) and missions director at North Garland Baptist Fellowship in Garland, spoke on the topic of “Creating a Mission Culture Within the Church.” He said his desire is to help churches prioritize missions “because missions is part of the fabric of the church, not just an activity of the church.”
April Ott, who has been serving with IMB for the last 17 years, taught on the topic of “Leading Your Church in Short-Term Missions.” On of the workshop attendants told her his church was “a going church, but not a sending church.” In response, Ott said, “Short-term missions lead people to become full time missionaries, because they can see the need first-hand. We need to help those who go on short-term missions to discover their calling to full-time mission work.”
Bruno Molina, language and interfaith evangelism associate for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and CEO of the National Hispanic Baptist Network, taught a workshop on “Sharing Christ Among Cultures and Religions.”
“My focus is to enable churches to develop cross-cultural interfaith knowledge and discernment, to be able to share the gospel effectively,” he said. Molina, who is of Hispanic descent, knows first-hand the importance of cross-cultural evangelism and diversity.