Missions has always been the heartbeat of Oklahoma Baptists. And the heart of the missionary movement among Oklahoma Baptists is the local church—and we have the research to prove it!

Today, more than 200 Oklahomans are serving in the field with the International Mission Board (IMB). Many are in leadership positions with the IMB. These are statistics for Oklahoma Baptists to be proud of, and a cause for thankfulness to the Lord that he would call so many from among us.

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31).

Last year, Oklahoma Baptists adopted the visionary goal to labor to increase the number of missionaries sent from Oklahoma by 20 percent. It’s a challenging goal, but it is obtainable through prayer and if we all do our part to keep the pipeline of potential missionaries filled.

How can we do that? We wondered too, so we went straight to the source and asked. In November 2019, in partnership with the IMB, we surveyed the currently serving IMB missionaries from Oklahoma and asked them what ministries of Oklahoma Baptists were most influential in helping them discern their calling to missions. Here’s what we found:

Ministries focused on children, youth and young adults were considered the most effective. Fifty-four percent of all respondents indicated that they felt God calling them to missions between the ages of 16 to 25. Missionary respondents named Oklahoma Baptists camps CrossTimbers (21 percent) and Falls Creek (25 percent) as having a high impact in mobilizing them to missions. Also, Oklahoma Baptist University (18 percent) and Baptist Collegiate Ministries (22 percent) at Oklahoma colleges and universities were the top statewide ministries that influenced missionaries to find the path of their true calling.

The Great Commission is the calling of the local church

Thank the Lord for these results from our statewide ministries! It should be of no surprise, however, that the local church is the real key to fueling the missionary movement in Oklahoma. By design, God has empowered the local church to be the source of mission-sending to the nations. Our research showed that the most influential ministries that helped missionaries discern their calling were based in their home church.

Here is a video produced in partnership with the IMB showing Oklahoma missionaries talking about their calling and the impact their church had in helping them discern their calling to missions. Watch and see how many ways the local church equipped missionaries to find their calling to missions.

Based on the research, here are five ways the local Oklahoma Baptist church can keep the IMB missionary pipeline filled.

  1. Regularly preach about missions. Missionaries report that hearing a regular diet of mission-themed sermons helped them discern the Lord’s calling to missions (45 percent). The theme of the Bible is God’s plan to redeem people of every tribe and tongue through His Son Jesus Christ. Preach on!
  2. Invite missionary speakers to come to your church. Missionaries said that hearing a missionary speaker in their church impacted them in their understanding of missions (58 percent). Pastor, use your network, contacts in the convention and mission board to keep a regular parade of missionary speakers in front of your church. It is one of the most effective missions education tools in your toolbox.
  3. Take mission trips. Missionaries reported that going on mission trips influenced their decision to pursue a calling to missions (70 percent). This is perhaps the most practical way to help the missionaries God has blessed your church with, to hear the voice of the Lord calling them. Work closely with the IMB when planning your mission trips, so that your trips also are strategically benefiting the ministry of our missionaries on the field as well. If your people can work alongside an IMB missionary, they will benefit all the more.
  4. Educate your whole church about missions. When asked about the many ways churches educated them about missions, nearly a third of our missionaries reported they found their calling to missions through VBS, Children’s mission programs, youth, collegiate, Sunday school, men’s and women’s ministries (30 percent). Assess all your churches ministries. Can they be adjusted to also incorporate missions education?
  5. Promote missions giving. When you promote missions giving, you’re not just raising money. You are doing missions advocacy. You are raising missionary awareness to potential missionaries in your church. IMB missionaries told us the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) promotions in their church played a large role in helping them find their calling (55 percent). Don’t bury the LMCO as a line item in the missions budget. Let IMB take a prominent place in your fundraising

Note: Perhaps what is lesser known is the role of the Cooperative Program (CP) in missions awareness. Missionaries in our survey repeatedly mentioned the CP as vital in helping them understand that going as an IMB missionary was financially possible for their family. Be sure to promote the CP from the pulpit and use CP as missions advocacy too.

If your church is like most Oklahoma Baptist churches, the heartbeat of your church is missions. Let’s do our part to keep filling the missions pipeline filled by calling out the called though intentional missions advocacy and education.