COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP) — A church plant in Oklahoma City has taken on the responsibility of starting a church in Tucson, Ariz., both in a Native American context.
“We promote the work of the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Emerson Falls, pastor of Circle of Life in Oklahoma City and president of the Fellowship of Native American Christians, which meets each year in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Falls’ comment involves the church he leads and the anticipated Tucson church plant, each connecting to FoNAC and the SBC.
Circle of Life Church meets Wednesday evenings for worship, while weekends are spent ministering among people attending powwows across Oklahoma, which has the most Native Americans of any U.S. state.
The Tucson church plant will seek to reach out to Yaqui Indians.
Falls and FoNAC’s executive director, Gary Hawkins, addressed the fellowship’s gathering June 15 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
Worship in a Native language led by Augustus Smith, president of Native Praise, and a message brought by Vern Charette, assistant professor of preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, also were part of this year’s meeting of the fellowship, which was organized in 2006.
Of the 566 Native American tribes across the United States, more than 250 are in Oklahoma, with another 75 in North Carolina, Hawkins said. At least 100,000 Native Americans can be counted in each of 14 states. In addition, more than 630 tribal groups are spread across Canada. Fewer than 10 percent of Natives in the U.S. are Christian.
“There’s just more things to do than we’re capable of doing,” Hawkins said, yet noting, “We serve a God who is not limited. … Jesus can make a difference in the lives of Native American people.”
In partnership with the SBC’s North American Mission Board, FoNAC plans to lead a vision trip to Native American groups in western Oklahoma this year, following by later vision trips to Phoenix/Tucson, Los Angeles and Minneapolis/St.Paul. The group is on the Internet at www.fonac.org.
Anglo churches are encouraged to partner with Native churches to reach Native Americans through long-term connections, Hawkins said. These can include financial support and grants now that the fellowship has become a 501c3 nonprofit organization.
FoNAC emphasizes ministry that supports the work of the on-site Christians, Falls said, rather than swooping in, making a splash and leaving a hole that isn’t filled until the next mission team comes in.