In 1850, Bro. Jefferson Bowen started out on a journey to Central Africa, with the town of Igboho specifically in his mind. It was a missionary journey which eventually resulted in what is known as the Nigerian Baptist Convention.
In 1953 and at the 40th Annual Session of the Nigerian Baptist Convention at Jos, the Home and Foreign Missions Department was created to oversee the mission activities of the Convention.
Since that time, the Convention’s mission activities have been projected. The first Home Mission Field known as Shendam was started and this has grown to 20 Home Mission fields (apart from the ones that have been granted autonomy alongside Shendam). *It is also the present Central Baptist Conference today. In the same vein, the first International field, Sierra Leone, was established in 1961; but today the Convention has extended the work to eight other International fields.
It is the emphasis on the mission activities taking place on these fields, that is called Home Missions Emphasis and International Missions Emphasis. These are programmes observed within the second weeks of March and November respectively. In recent times, we have extended the former to a week between the months of March and May of each year, while the latter is between November and January of each year.
Any Baptist member who has consistently read the booklets produced during these weeks, for 5 years; will definitely have a broad overview of activities and ministry in all the fields.
Why should we observe these weeks of emphasis? How important are they to the growth of the Baptist Church and Missions? What should be our reaction to observing these programmes? These and more are our main discuss here as the Holy Spirit helps us.
A. Why must we observe these Weeks of Emphasis?
Let us look at the objectives we, as a Convention set for Missions while inaugurating the Global Missions Board in Jos at the 85th Annual Convention in Session in 1998.
- To awaken Baptist family members to their responsibility of spreading the gospel message in Nigeria and beyond.
- To direct the energy of the Convention in the propagation of the gospel at home and abroad.
- To recommend ways and means of financing the Missions enterprise.
- To recruit suitable volunteers for missions work in cooperation with the Ministerial Board.
- To make every Baptist family member a missions mobilizer in their vicinity and beyond (an addition that came in later)
Observing these weeks therefore, will help us to:
- Know the missionaries and know the fields.
- Know the kind of people group we are reaching out to in each of the fields.
- Know the specific ministry being embarked upon on the fields.
- Know the specific needs to be met on the fields.
- Be exposed to the various needs on the fields and know how they can be met.
- Develop a kind of burden to pray, to give or to visit the field(s).
- Stand up together with the Missionaries to face the challenges of the fields.
- Fruitfully channel and spend our resources for Kingdom growth in each of the fields.
If as a Local Baptist Church we do not read the booklets written, watch the CDs produced and observe the weeks of emphasis to adequately know the fields projected, how are we then going to carry out the above points and objectives enumerated?
The writer was in a Baptist Church for missions emphasis during one of the weeks for missions. He asked the congregation the following questions:
- How many Home Mission Fields do we have in the Nigerian Baptist Convention?
- How many International Fields do you know as a person?
- How many missionaries can you rightly mention by name and field?
- What effort(s) have you been making as a believer in Christ to see our mission enterprise thrive in the lands
To his amazement, not up to 5 people could answer the first two questions adequately. This was disappointing to the writer because, this particular church observed the weeks of emphasis. If it happens this way in a church that observes the programmes, what will be the fate of those who do not observe it?
B. How Important are these Programmes to the Growth of our Missions Enterprise?
The more a Local Baptist Church sincerely and adequately observes these programmes yearly, the more the church ceases to be a sitting church and becomes a going Church. This has been proved to be true about some of our churches in the Convention.
While some go directly to the fields to adopt a pastor and / or church, others send pastors and establish churches among the unreached people groups. Some send money, clothes and other relief materials; others dig bore-holes, build church sanctuaries and mission houses. Some visit the fields yearly for leadership training, church planting, outreaches and sponsoring of indigenes into our theological institutions.
In some areas, Associations and Conferences have come together as a team to reach the nations. Posterity will not forgive me if I do not mention the active roles being played in missions by some organizations; like the WMS, Lydia, G.A., R.A. and few MMUs at the Local Church, Association and Conference levels. What is the church you are attending doing? What are your Church, Association and Conference organizations doing? When we all put missions in our Church, Association and Conference budgets with the mind of doing missions in the real sense of it, then:
- Missions will expand to other lands more than what we have at both the Home and International levels presently.
- Our missionaries will have enough tools and receive more encouragement to perform well.
- Many more will answer to the missionary call of “here am I, send me”.
- Mission mobilizers and volunteer mission groups will be on the increase.
- Our churches will now become sending and giving churches and not sitting churches.
- We shall indeed bring the nations to worship at His throne room.
What should now be our reactions?
With all these enumerations, we are to work together as a team to:
- adequately prepare and observe, in meaningful and fruitful ways, both the Home and International Mission Emphases.
- unitedly promote the programmes on a yearly basis in our Churches, Associations and Conferences until they yield the desired fruits.
- pray, mobilize, give, support and visit the mission fields in order to reach the unreached with the gospel of Christ Jesus.
- write and raise issues that could lead to the expansion of our mission work in the lands.
- harness our resources for maximum missions enterprise.
May this generation of ours not fail in our bid to see the unreached, reached; the naked, clothed; the hungry, fed; the prisoner, released; the thirsty, given drink and the hopeless getting hope in Christ Jesus.
“. . . And when He saw the multitude, He was moved with compassion. . .”
When we make the effort of knowing what’s going on in the fields, then, we will become that son who harvests and not sleep off during harvest (Prov. 10:45)
May we also be compassionate to read and know more about these hopeless ones, the forgotten ones, and the helpless in the far lands; and to do something about them for and to the Lord’s glory! Amen.
By Pastor Okunoye Stephen