RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- This is not your father's Southern Baptist Convention.
That's a message SBC President Fred Luter wants an increasingly diverse generation of young evangelicals to hear.
Photo by Chris Carter
"Our challenge as Southern Baptists is to let young believers know that you are welcome at the table," said Luter, who met recently with International Mission Board (IMB) leadership and staff at the home office in Richmond, Va. "We want you to come, sit at the table and tell us what we can do to help you fit in more with this convention."
The SBC's first African-American president, Luter also is encouraging ethnic minorities, particularly African Americans, to look to international missions as a means of expanding God's kingdom. Of IMB's 4,900 missionaries, 27 are African American, 79 are Hispanic and 317 are Asian.
For African Americans, that's one-half of 1 percent of the total IMB missionary count, explains Keith Jefferson, IMB's African American church missional strategist.
When compared to as estimated 1 million African Americans included in the SBC's 16 million members, "that's a disproportionately low number of African Americans serving overseas," he said.
Although African Americans have served in spurts with the IMB (formerly the Foreign Mission Board) since shortly after the SBC began in 1845, the low number serving overseas today doesn't surprise Luter.
"A lot of our African American churches are in the 'hood," said Luter, who pastors Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, La. "It's a daily fight every day. [People ask me], 'Why do I need to go to Africa, Asia or Europe? We need to get people saved in this community.'"
Luter aims to change that mindset. Jefferson hopes to help him.
"It's a both/and approach," Luter said. "We need to reach the people in our neighborhoods and get African Americans out on the foreign field."
Jefferson agreed. "Charity begins at home, but it doesn't end there. The command begins in Jerusalem, but we don't stop at the beginning." Read More