LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (BP)--Great numbers of Southern Baptist volunteers continue to pursue a call to minister overseas through the International Mission Board. More than 26,000 fanned out across the globe last year alone. Missionaries testify that volunteers accelerate by years the goal of reaching people groups for Christ.
Still, volunteers can have an even greater impact, one missions leader says.
"The wave of volunteers coming to the field exemplifies a movement among Southern Baptists to take ownership of the Great Commission," said Ken Sorrell, regional training associate for the IMB's Middle America region. "Great work is being done.
"But we want to help volunteers maximize their ministry and missions opportunities. They are making huge investments with their time and money, so we want them to have a significantly deep impact for the kingdom of God."
Helping volunteers reach that depth is the reasoning behind Frontliners, a three-day training event hosted by the Middle America regional leadership team. The event equips volunteers with a field perspective and helps them to arrive in a country with effective missions strategies.
Frontliners provides the practical training volunteers need to make their missions trips more intentional. Sorrell said part of the training touches on a real-world understanding of the cross-cultural challenges missionaries and volunteers face.
"We don't sugarcoat it," he said. "Missions is hard work, and we want them to be prepared for the challenges we face when we take the Gospel to places it may never have been preached before."
The training focuses on what it means for a pastor or a church to have a biblical missions vision, heart and mind. Sorrell said attendees begin to understand truly the depth of the spiritual needs of the world's peoples and the importance for Christians to be "extremely focused" in their approach to missions. The conference also provides individualized help to individuals who desire to go on a missions trip and those who are open to it but undecided.
Those attending also are introduced to the Strategy Church Coordinator training. Sorrell said this is an approach in which stateside churches have accepted the role of being missionaries to a specific people group.
"There are some incredible stories about churches who have accepted this challenge and what they're doing on the field," he said.
"Southern Baptists are going to do missions," said Phil Templin, IMB regional leader for Middle America. "We live in a day when the church is taking ownership of the Great Commission. The IMB is not here to do missions on behalf of Southern Baptists or control what churches feel led to do.
"But what we want to do is help volunteers in every way possible to have a positive experience that reaps an eternal harvest. Frontliners training is applicable anywhere in the world, not just the Americas. All the feedback we've gotten from past Frontliners training is that it helped people and churches maximize their opportunities."
More than 150 people were trained in two workshops hosted by Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo. The next Frontliners conference is scheduled for April 6-8 at Flat Creek Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga. Second Baptist will host another Frontliners conference in November.