Vision trips help churches see mission opportunities, look ‘outside of ourselves’

by Teresa Young on May 14, 2024 in News

While the state of Texas continues to be a mission field, it is also a mission base from which individuals are sent to go and make disciples. The Center for Missional Engagement is helping Texas Baptists churches explore mission opportunities both across the street and around the nation.

Through partnerships with Northwest Baptists and the Metro New York Baptist Association, recent vision trips to the Pacific Northwest and New York City gave church leaders the opportunity to observe and connect with ministry work beyond the state's borders.

Tom Howe, associate director for the Center for Missional Engagement, accompanied the Seattle-area group that included 13 Texas Baptists church leaders. He noted that vision trip attendees witness a multitude of ministry opportunities in the cities they visit.

“Some are established ministry sites, some are church plants and some needs are for training and other things we can provide there on site,” he said.

Howe also pointed out that the groups from Texas foster a sense of humility and often learn from others as much as they support them.

“We want these partnerships to be reciprocal,” he said.

Noe Treviño, director of the Missionary Adoption Program (MAP) for Texas Baptists, led the New York trip that visited church plants in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Long Island. There, the need for congregations from Texas to partner for Vacation Bible Schools, Christian counseling and pastoral encouragement was clear.

“Lots of times, the pastor and staff feel like they are on their own with lots to do, and they feel like they see very little progress. But as we listened to their stories, the pastors on the trips were surprised and pleased to hear what was happening. There’s actually a lot taking place,” said Treviño. “A lot of churches have committed to going back and joining what’s taking place there.”

More challenging ministry ‘a good reminder’

Jeff Covington, associate pastor at Oakwood Baptist Church in New Braunfels, attended the New York Vision trip. While his church is actively engaged in church plant support in various places, they no longer have any northeast partners save for Washington, D.C.

“I was really moved and had my eyes opened to Long Island and the needs there,” said Covington. “We spent one day there and met several church planters.”

Covington was particularly impressed with the Cornerstone Bible Church, a congregation that committed part of their building to house smaller church plants until they grow into their own spaces. Learning that two counties had only 23 churches to reach a population of 3 million residents really solidified his understanding of the great need for help in the New York area.

“Support can depend a lot on the church planters and what they need. For some, it’s definitely financial support; some are very willing to have teams come in and help with projects. Sometimes it’s bringing those folks here to be in front our people and let them hear what God is doing there,” Covington added. “I think it’s a good reminder for those of us in the Bible Belt of Texas that there are pastors in churches that are in more challenging areas, and they are forced to focus on the main things and not get distracted. They also need our encouragement since they are often in areas without many Christians at all.”

Looking ‘outside of ourselves’

For Nathan Adams, pastor at First Baptist Church in Hereford, the trip to Seattle was equally eye-opening. As a third-generation pastor, Adams said hearing the numbers of unchurched and the challenges they faced was difficult.

“What stuck out to me was the intentional disciple-making…intentional in the sense that they are making disciples to really go make other disciples. They really are preparing them to be sent out. They have helped inspire me as a pastor to be more about sending people into the world,” said Adams. “It’s easy to focus on ourselves, and that was a big impact in my life.”

The trip interested Adams, who has family in the Northwest, and he is looking forward to how Hereford will get out beyond their community to serve.

“We’re praying about where God might have us to go and what to do. We’re thinking about how we could send a team to lead VBS or something like that. Or maybe we could support one of those pastors somewhat since they make so little and the cost of living is so much there,” he said. “We need to look outside of ourselves and see the global church at work and how we can get involved.”

A ‘missions lab’ for the world

The global church is one thing Dr. Mike Rubino, pastor at Cornerstone Bible Church, says the Northeast can offer visiting churches first-hand.

“There is a global impact when you work in New York. Twenty percent of people that live here are first-generation Americans or foreign-born,” says Rubino. “We’re working with Vietnamese churches, Haitian churches, and Pakistani, Indian-American and Latino church planters, among others. Our church has seen four dozen people saved since January, and they are engaged and ready to serve. Our ultimate plan is to raise up leaders and plant churches out of that.”

Rubino says the vision trips coordinated by Texas Baptists are helpful for his church to show a glimpse of the different challenges that New York churches face. He is prayerful that God will bring like-minded churches with a desire to live in openness and share resources out of a relationship that brings a sense of home and family.

Kevin Cabe, partnership coordinator with the Metro New York Baptist Association, echoed the desire to see the added partnerships with Texas Baptists churches become a reality.

“We’re excited about a partnership with Texas Baptists because we love resourcing our local churches. We also see it as a stewardship issue to help churches to mobilize and be sent out from their own context. We see New York City as a missions lab for the entire world. You can serve in an urban context but get an international feel as well. It has something for everyone,” said Cabe.

“It’s always exciting to have churches [in New York] for the first time. They are enamored of the tall buildings and bright lights, but New York is home to eight and a half million people in the city proper and 22 to 23 million within a 75-mile radius of Times Square. It’s exciting to see them experience the subway for the first time and to ask hard questions about how to reach all these people here.”

Texas Baptists is a movement of God’s people to share Christ and show love by strengthening churches and ministers, engaging culture and connecting the nations to Jesus.

The ministry of the convention is made possible by giving through the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program, Mary Hill Davis Offering® for Texas Missions, Texas Baptists Worldwide and Texas Baptist Missions Foundation. Thank you for your faithful and generous support.

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