Filipinos urged: 'Look beyond who you are'
ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)--Filipino Southern Baptists are better equipped to reach North America for Christ than any other ethnic group immigrating to the U.S., Jason Kim told the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship of North America.
"You are the only group that speaks English," said Kim, coordinator of the North American Mission Board's metro mission team. "That is why God sent you here to reach North America with the Gospel of Jesus. You are one of His main hopes."
Kim was among the speakers at the annual meeting of the fellowship, held June 15 in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Fla.
Nearly 90 Filipino church leaders gathered to discuss new initiatives to take the Gospel to the 2.5 million Filipinos in the United States.
Filipinos represent the second-largest group of immigrants into the United States, next to Hispanics, Kim said. He encouraged them to adopt a Great Commission mindset: "When you look at God's Kingdom, it's better to look beyond who you are."
Filipinos also settle in large metropolitan areas, giving them a head start to reach U.S. cities where the majority of the nation's population resides, Kim added.
His remarks were echoed by Darwin Sokoken, a church planter in the Washington, D.C., area, who urged Filipino church leaders to "inform ourselves and equip ourselves to be multi-ethnic church planters" to reach both Filipinos and other Asian groups in the U.S.
Sokoken told the group that an emphasis on church planting among Filipinos must be directed to second-generation Filipinos who are being assimilated into the American culture.
Sokoken said the 207 Filipino Southern Baptist churches in the U.S. and Canada are concentrated most heavily in California, with 97 congregations, and New York/New Jersey, with 17 congregations.
The report was based 2005 statistics, the latest figures available, Sokoken said.
The fellowship's president, Roger Manao, pastor of the Philadelphia Bible Church International in Pennsylvania, said it is difficult to accurately account for Filipino churches in North America. He said he hopes that as the fellowship grows, more intentionality in reporting can overcome the statistical deficiencies.
Manao called on the Filipinos to "network together and mobilize" to plant 30 churches in the next decade. "We are not doing our best to reach the Filipino community for Christ," he said.
Ralph Garay, Asian church planting consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, urged church leaders also to send missionaries back to the Philippines to reach that nation for Christ.
Reminding them of the Muslim influence throughout Southeast Asia, Garay challenged the churches to a "higher purpose by mobilizing the Filipino church worldwide" as they partner with congregations in their homeland as a means of accomplishing the Great Commission.
Ken Weathersby, North American Mission Board vice president of church planting, told the group that 258 million people living in the United States do not claim to know Jesus Christ.
While "we live in a culture of criticism that is always criticizing what's wrong with the church," Weathersby shared five qualities that show what is right with the church: the mission of the Great Commission, the method of prayer, the message of Jesus Christ, the ministry of servants within the church and the Messiah is Christ.
"Quit complaining about what is wrong and start giving God credit for what is right," Weathersby said.
Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.