PERSPECTIVE: The time is now
The face of Oklahoma is changing. Perhaps since the run of ’89 our state has not seen such a dramatic change in the make-up of the population. Consider the following information given to me by our ethnic evangelism leader:
– There are 100 different people groups.
– People groups come from 70 different nations and Native American tribes.
– 1.1 million of the over 3.4 million people are considered ethnic or Native American.
– Oklahoma Baptists have 370 ethnic and Native American churches.
– Most are small and led by bivocational ministers.
– There is one church for every 9,189 ethnic or Indian residents.
God in His providence has brought the mission field to Oklahoma. We are swimming in uncharted waters. Every person who comprises the 100 people groups in our state is loved by God and must be given opportunity to hear the Gospel. We are given stewardship for the Gospel and presenting the claims of Christ to them.
There is little argument that people understand the Good News best when it is presented to them in their heart language. I cannot imagine how long it would take me to learn enough Spanish to understand the Gospel’s basic truths. Our goal should be to make those truths clear in the heart language of the people God has sent our way.
Without question, our greatest effort in planting the Gospel among people groups in our state is the starting of new congregations. In God’s economy, the church is the key to evangelism and discipleship. The church is not a luxury-rather it is a necessity in God’s plan. People who come to faith are to be gathered in a church for teaching, training, fellowship and ministry.
I am pleased that nearly one-half of the 50-60 new congregations established by Oklahoma Baptists last year are among these people groups. Most are Hispanic, and that is as it should be since the greatest growth is among these peoples. While we are making progress among our minority groups, we must accelerate our church planting efforts more than ever.
New congregations need leaders. Our convention has developed a program to train both lay and pastoral leaders. The Robert Haskins School of Leadership has been established to teach basic church leadership skills. It is designed for those who do not have the educational background to attend college or seminary.
We partner with Golden Gate Seminary to provide instruction for leaders who desire a higher level of training. Students can earn a diploma through a contextual learning program. We place great value on training our new people group leaders. In decades to come, more and more will earn college degrees and full seminary degrees.
The United States Census projects that by the year 2042, ethnic minorities will be in the majority in the U.S. Projected population numbers indicate that the U.S. will be comprised of 30 percent Hispanic, 15 percent African American and 9 percent Asian. Oklahoma’s population mix will no doubt reflect this dramatic change.
The time to impact the people groups of Oklahoma is now. Thanks to our churches giving to the Cooperative Program, to our State Missions Offering and to associations, Oklahoma Baptists are partnering to evangelize and congregationalize the people groups God has sent to our state.