For decades the American church operated on the assumption that it is the gatekeeper of the gospel. Most of the missionaries abroad were Americans. By God’s grace, pioneer missionaries planted multitudes of local churches in developed and developing countries and even in restricted-access countries.
While many of those early churches show evidence of their American roots, many others are breaking out of those forms to live out their Christianity in culturally relevant ways. When encouraged, some are writing their own discipleship materials and even their own worship songs. Gradually we are learning that our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world can teach us much about authentic Christianity and Great Commission work—if we are ready to learn.
In 1999, Mark Jackson accepted the challenge to investigate and initiate a partnership between associations of independent Baptist churches. As of today, God has brought together 53 partnering associations from 14 countries, representing about 9,000 local churches. The International Partnership of Fundamental Baptist Ministries is about to make history again.
Chris Hindal, director of the IPFBM for the GARBC, announced that the first-ever IPFBM conference will be held in Bangkok, Thailand, November 4–7, 2009. In this Internet age, Baptist leaders from around the world can connect through technology, but this conference will connect them face-to-face.
The term “local church” too often defines the practical scope of the universal church’s ministry. While most congregations have opportunities to listen to missionary presentations and reports, few have met national believers, the fruit of our missionary labors. The IPFBM facilitates such relationships. Through this network, local churches can contact partnering groups and identify a local congregation as a sister church, mutually engaged in the global harvest. Your church can e-mail correspondence and pictures, converse through Skype, hold a missionary committee meeting, and through a webinar invite the church leaders on the other side of the world to participate. With a webcam or similar technology, your church can invite the national pastor to speak at your missionary conference. This interaction will motivate some of your congregation to visit on-site. Your people and your ministry will never be the same.
Come to the conference
As a local church pastor of a partnering association, consider seriously the invitation to attend the conference in Bangkok. As a member of a fellowshipping church, encourage and finance the trip so your pastor is positioned to lead a world-aware congregation for the glory of God. The global aspect of the Great Commission is no longer related only to missionaries; every congregation must be “glocal,” both local and global.