PERSPECTIVE: In their native tongue
The Great Commission is very clear. Our task, until Jesus calls us home through death or until His return, is to declare the Gospel and make disciples of all nations. In the original language of the New Testament the word translated “nations” does not refer to geographic boundaries but to “peoples” or “people groups.” In other verses the call is for us to carry the message to people of every tribe and tongue.
Too often our thoughts shift immediately to the nations beyond the borders of North America. When reading the English translation of the Great Commission, this view is reasonable. But the Great Commission is borderless. It does not pertain to geography—it is about ethnicity. Our goal is to present the Gospel and disciple followers of Jesus in their heart language whether they live in East Asia, India, Germany, Mexico, etc., or within the United States. The Great Commission is not just about “over there”—it is about anywhere people do not have access to the Gospel in their heart or first language.
That is the reason we work hard to plant churches among the growing ethnic populations of Oklahoma. Each year, nearly half of the 50-60 new churches Baptists plant in Oklahoma are ethnic. We continually work to develop materials that contextualize the Gospel. A good example is the production of materials for the MY316 evangelism strategy. These resources have been translated into Spanish to make them usable by our largest and fastest growing ethnic group.
Falls Creek is another example of Oklahoma Baptists fulfilling the Great Commission. Falls Creek has always been known for the youth encampments. Indeed, it was birthed as a youth camp. I hope and believe that until Jesus comes, the heart of our ministry through Falls Creek will always feature our engagement of the emerging generations.
But Falls Creek is about making disciples of all “people groups.” For nearly 60 years, Indian Falls Creek has been one of its crown jewels. People of every “tribe and tongue” gather to worship and study the Word of God. Every service is marked by one of the tribes singing in its native language. Across the years, thousands have come to faith in Christ, been deepened in their faith and heard the call of God to ministry.
Many do not realize that other ethnic groups also experience a time to focus on Christ at Falls Creek. Just last week, I had the privilege of preaching at Hispanic Falls Creek. What a joy to worship with our Hispanics! I stood among them and heard them sing the songs of Zion in their native language. It was beautiful beyond description. God moved powerfully during the invitation. Afterwards, it was my privilege to lead a young mother, with a baby in her arms and two children by her side, to faith in Christ. As with many of the youth at Falls Creek, she was present because someone paid her way. Her eternity was changed.
I made a prediction before our Hispanics. This year they met in the beautiful Jennie V. Massey Chapel. In a few years they will need to move to the tabernacle because of growth. I envision someday seeing thousands of Hispanics in the tabernacle, praising God and hearing the powerful truth of God’s Word in Spanish.
You might be surprised that this weekend we hosted a gathering of Ethiopian Baptists from across America. Once again, the Gospel was proclaimed in their native tongue—the Great Commission at work in Oklahoma.
One day around the throne, there will be worshipers from every people group on Earth. Our goal is to see that as many as possible are from Oklahoma.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.