In its move to the western United States during the 19th Century, the Gospel came to Oklahoma as missionaries brought the Good News to the Indian peoples. In fact, the first Baptist church in Oklahoma was started by a missionary who came to reach our native population. With the westward movement of large populations of Indians from the east came not only the Gospel but also churches that had previously existed among them.
Today, approximately 240 of the 1,760 Oklahoma Southern Baptist churches are Native American. These churches are vital to reaching the 39 tribes that reside here. Many of them are small and struggling. But Oklahoma leads the way in reaching American Indians. I am often approached at meetings by Southern Baptist leaders seeking help in reaching the native peoples of their state.
A few years ago, Native American leaders in Oklahoma began to dream of a gathering of their peers from across the United States, and even other countries, to dialogue, pray and develop new approaches to the Indian people. Despite years of mission work, we have not broken the missional code for reaching this group. Thus, the need for something we are calling “The Gathering.”
A few weeks ago, I spent a week preaching and interacting with our native people and their leaders at Indian Falls Creek. It became very clear that there is a deep hunger among them to see their people come to a vibrant and living faith in Jesus Christ. I sensed a renewed passion to find the key to engaging and reaching their people with the Gospel. This provides the platform for a gathering of leaders to cry out to God for insight and guidance in touching this large people group of our state and nation.
It is interesting that Henry Blackaby has stated on numerous occasions that the next great awakening may well come through the Native Americans. When I see their humble hearts and deep desire for their people to know Christ, I understand why he feels this way.
The Oklahoma State Missions Offering provides the dollars for “The Gathering.” Indian leaders from across America, Canada and Central and South America will gather. They will hear from leaders in places where there has been great success in reaching Indian people. Missionaries will challenge them to become more missional in their thinking and ministry. In many ways, we must step back and approach the Indian people as if we were on a foreign mission field.
At “The Gathering,” Indian leaders will be encouraged, challenged and inspired. I believe it could be the beginning in a new era of reaching Native Americans in our nation and beyond. I am absolutely convinced this will increase the fervor, knowledge and approach to reaching native peoples.
Native American congregations add richness to our Oklahoma Baptist family. Without question, God has given us the responsibility of sharing the Gospel with this people group in Oklahoma. Through the Oklahoma State Missions Offering, you can be a part of undergirding an historic, unique and vital gathering of native leaders that will result in new and innovative ways to evangelize and congregationalize Native Americans in Oklahoma and beyond.