Arkansas is home to more than 127 people groups. Over half of those are considered either unreached or unengaged unreached. Unreached because they are less than 2% evangelical and unengaged unreached because they are less than 2% evangelical and there is currently no church planting strategy to reach them.
Last year, Jamie Naramore joined the ABSC Missions Team in order to help Arkansas Baptists engage these groups. On episode 59 of The Grind, Naramore outlined 3 steps churches can take to begin to reach out. It can seem overwhelming when we think about the task ahead of us, even if these groups are all around us. Jamie helps us take first steps. No matter where your church is, start small but start now!
It sounds cliché but is there anything more important in reaching the unreached than prayer? At the end of the day, it’s the work of God that brings lost people to himself not our effort. Prayer keeps us grounded in our dependence on God. This is a spiritual work we are doing! Prayer also opens doors that we couldn’t open ourselves. God uses our prayers to connect us where we previously didn’t have connections. God uses prayer to break down barriers. Scripture is full of examples of God’s people praying and literally walls fall down. But God also uses prayer to open our eyes. When we start praying for unreached peoples, our eyes are suddenly opened to who they are, where they live, where they gather, and places we can interact with them. Prayer, although simple and inexpensive, is not easy. It does cost us time and effort. But there is no substitute for it. The best and most accessible place for your church to start is with prayer.
The next, first step that Jamie suggest is to discover. Discover which people groups are in your area. Discover where they live, work, and gather. Discover what places of worship are in your city. Discover all the places that would make it neutral and natural to initiate conversations. This can be as simple as frequenting the ethnic restaurants in your community. Jamie recommends going to shops or stores that are owned or operated by internationals. “Just remember to buy something. Conversations are always easier to start when you buy something.” Another great place to discover who to engage is college campuses. International students are a mission field that has come to us. Many institutions have programs designed to connect international students with American families. Want to see who lives in your community? Go to absc.org/peoplegroups to begin the discovery process.
As you begin to pray and discover, the next first step is to engage. Visit a mosque or temple, eat at a restaurant, or shop at a store. “Invite yourself in. Internationals are curious about us just as much as we are curious about them. They want to know Americans. Have someone over to your house and let them get to know your family. Or, be like Jesus and invite yourself over,” Jamie suggests. “Take the initiative and be willing to reorient your life to them. Do what it takes to cross cultural barriers to have gospel conversations.” Is it easy? No! But it does have an impact!
As with anything new, starting is always the hardest part. The task is urgent but feels overwhelming. Don’t let the enormity of the mission keep your church from getting started. Start small but start now. Who knows what the Lord will use you to do?