The following is my notes of the panel discussion at the Send North America Conference in Atlanta, GA. Here are the names of the panelists: James Dixon Jr., Carlos Navarro, Brian Galloway, Benny Wong, Aslam Mashim
What is the primary people group you are seeking to reach? What is the population of that people group in North America? What cities are they the most?
Dixon: I am reaching out to African Americans. There are over 40 million in the US. Washington D.C. and New York and cities in the south have a large population.
Navarro: We are reaching Mexicans and Texas is one of the largest populations next to California. There are 44 million mexicans in North America.
Aslam: I am reaching Muslims. There are 70,000 Saudi students who are studying at Universities in the U.S. There are very few churches started among these people. In New York, LA, Detroit, D.C., Houston are major muslim cities.
Galloway: In the U.S. there are 42 million foreign born residents. That is a 29% increase since the year 2000 and a 60% increase since 1990. At the present trend there will be 25% foreign born in the US. Right now 2 out of 3 students in our schools have at least one foreign born parent. These people are not just in the cities. There are mosques and foreign born people everywhere.
Wang: I am reaching out to Chinese. There are 3.2 million Chinese in the U.S. They mostly live in California and in New York. We are also targeting HIspanics even though we are Chinese churches. We need to reach out to them because they are our neighbors and they are quickly outnumbering the Asian population.
What is the greatest problem in reaching your people?
Dixon: We need to just return to the bible. There is too much institutionalism and extra biblical practices.
Navarro: My local association. The red tape and the issues within the association are not helpful.
How do we find people to reach muslims? How do we equip them?
Aslam: We need to find people who have a vision. If we do not have a vision we will be wasting our time. We can equip them by giving them a model and having them see how a successful church is working. We then need to mentor them and tell them how and why we are doing it this way. Then we need to mobilize them and let them do it. Finally, we must multiply them.
What are the top people groups we need to reach?
Galloway: The institutions and the church are keeping us from the people groups. Take for example the huge group from El Salvador. There are multiple church plants that need to happen among the El Salvadorian group. Whether you believe in the homogeneous unit principle or not we must realize that this is the way people function. They are with the people in their people group. We need to meet them where they are and not where they should be. Iraqi people are another people that we need to reach. Also mainland China Chinese. Every person needs to hear the gospel in their own cultural forms and in their own language. We also need to be open to new models as we focus on these people groups.
How do you train your church planters? What methodology do you use?
Wang: We do not have a program as a church. I try to model church planting and be an example for others to follow. From day one of the church plant you need to set an example of how to be a church planter. God has answered prayer. I articulate the needs and God changes people. I do not have a program or structure. I asked people to consider planting a church and pray that God would lead them.
Dixon: Three years ago the Lord put it on my heart to put together a training for the African American community. We cannot assume that the black community knows about church planting. So we went back to the bible and learned from Paul how he planted churches. We have the Antioch Institute now where we train men to plant churches. Now we are getting leaders from other churches. We meet every 2nd Saturday and bring in instructors from all over the country. We have been highlighting some of the African American professors in the seminaries. I learned that church planting is a process and not instantaneous growth. We need a church that will last. We need to train these guys to be praying and trust God to take care of them.
Should we plant community churches with ethnic diversity or should we plant different churches?
Galloway: I would encourage you to do them all by starting house churches and then see if you can get everyone together for a celebratory service, but try reach all of the diverse people groups. You got to get in their homes. If you do not have relationships then you are not going to reach them.
Aslam: We need to learn more about the different cultures of the mosque and the Buddhist temple, but more importantly we need to know the culture of the gospel. The gospel will reach these people and we do not need to be experts to reach them.
How do we equip existing churches?
Navarro: It is a burden for the local church to think about missions sometimes because they are struggling to just keep the church they have. The great commission is not something for the evangelism committee but for the entire church. This is the first place we need to start. We need to get the people to start learning that this is the mission of the entire church. Then we can start working on planting churches when we teach our people this.