INDIANAPOLIS—“The task is too big to be done alone,” says Ariel Abadiano as he greets the 200 guests assembled for the North American Missions Congress, held on the campus of Crossroads Bible College. “We must work together,” Abadiano says, then encourages participants to use the next three days to form new missionary partnerships.
The North American event follows the same model as a similar Asia-Pacific Missions Congress that Abadiano organized in 2008. As president and founder of the Philippine-based PARTNERS International Ministry, Abadiano has planned a succession of global missions conferences, including a similar European conference planned for 2013. Abadiano wants to encourage collaboration between churches, mission agencies, ministry organizations, and colleges—“networks built from the coming together of independent, Bible-believing Baptists,” as Abadiano puts it. The various congresses have been held with the cooperation of the International Partnership of Fundamental Baptist Ministries, a network of 10,000 Baptist churches that includes the U.S.-based General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. And the overall tone of the event affirms a trend of the past few years: The participants represent an eclectic mix of Baptist ministries that have not always cooperated with each other, or even attended the same conferences.
“God brought to us a man from the Philippines to teach us,” says Dr. Charles Ware during the second plenary address on Tuesday night. “I think it is good for Americans to be challenged by other ethnic groups.”
Ware, the president of Crossroads Bible College, suggested that Americans have much to learn about world missions—and should listen to the advice from international leaders. “Americans don’t say it out loud (we’re humble), but we just know God is working in America. We’re experts over here,” Ware says, and then challenges his listeners to reconsider their narrow views. “If you study mission movements today, you’ll discover the greatest movements are not from America; they are from other parts of the world.”
During his Tuesday evening address, Abadiano asked participants to move past their “networking” phase into full cooperation for missionary work. “Networks share information and resources. Partners actually work together,” he says.
His idea reached full force during the Wednesday and Thursday afternoon break-out sessions, scheduled as 36 groups arranged by interest area. Each group participant represented various ministries, all discussing their common and overlapping interests. The groups were tasked with the responsibility of creating action items for future development, ways that the various ministries could cooperate together for future projects. Informal networking continued during break times, meals, and in the display area.
Charles Ware offered the best reason why such a conference is necessary. “Here is the fundamental value why you and I should partner together to reach the world: People are dying and are about to spend a Christless eternity in Hell. That fact used to move us, but it doesn’t anymore. Muslims are willing to strap a bomb to their body to further their cause, but we won’t turn off our television.”
This article was published in the November/December 2011 Baptist Bulletin as “‘Foreign’ Missionaries to the U.S.A”
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