Europe (MNN) — At the Southern Baptist Convention meeting last summer, president of International Mission Board Tom Elliff challenged the Southern Baptist Church to "Embrace" the 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups (UUPG).
These 3,800 are not the only people groups unreached with the Gospel, but they represent all of the groups with no known strategy in place to reach them for Christ. IMB's goal was to have 3,800 Southern Baptist Churches take the Embrace challenge to commit to at least one UUPG.
Churches were to start praying about the people groups and ask God for a strategy to reach them. They were to go to an Embrace Equipping conference and be coached as to which UUPG they should help. Then they would dedicate eight weeks per year for eight years to church planting right in the UUPG that they were assigned.
The first group to have not only been assigned a people group and gone through training but to actually engage with the group overseas just returned from Europe.
After hearing Elliff's commission last summer, Emmanuel Baptist Church of Oakdale, Louisiana and First Baptist Church of Mansfield, Texas came together to develop an active church-planting strategy among a UUPG in Europe.
First Baptist's pastor Johnny Dickerson told IMB, "The thing that appealed to me about Embrace was that we were stepping into places and situations where there was not already an IMB missionary on the ground. When we decided we were going to do this, I told our church, ‘We are not sending a missionary–we are sending you.'"
The two churches just returned from round one of their eight-week, eight-year commitment to Europe. On the ground, their IMB coach helped them learn about the culture and locations of their people group, as well as how to begin planting churches among them. They also went out into the city and made initial contacts with the people group.
The team was blown away by their initial contact. A volunteer with First Baptist's team explained, "[We] saw the Holy Spirit do stuff that only the Spirit could do."
Later, the volunteer added that the hardest part was over. "When we send teams back there, one of the hardest things about all of this has already been taken care of. We have somebody who has invited us back. They want to know when we are coming and want us to contact them when we get here."
Doors are now open that weren't open before, he said.
The task ahead is huge, but the churches are confident that God is big enough to reach the whole UUPG.