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Church Planting resources arranged by topic
Unique people group resources and places in need of churches
Southern Baptists' first efforts in home missions were rooted in taking the
gospel to the indigenous people and tribes of North America. For more
than 150 years, Southern Baptists have continued these efforts with mixed
results. Currently, there are 700 Native American Southern Baptist
churches across North America, but there remains much work to do in carrying
out Christ's commission to make disciples of all nations.
Here are some important facts that have great implications on Native American
All of these factors combined ought to be reflected in Native Amercian and
First Nations church planting strategies.
Factors to Consider
Native Americans have many inherent issues that must be addressed in order to
effectively communicate the gospel. Through more than 300 years of forced
settlement and resettlement, as well as various levels of assimilation, Native
American culture has experienced drastic changes. However, Native
Americans are a proud people who strongly identify with the factors that make
them a unique and valuable portion of the social make up of North America.
Non-Native American individuals, who are trying to share the gospel with Native
American peoples, must learn their cultural values. They must also learn
the language. Through these efforts, the hearts of Native American people
will be most receptive to the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.
The most effective means of sharing the gospel in a Native American context is
to utilize Native American believers. These believers can tell people in
their own tribal context how Jesus has made a difference in their lives.
This is also the Biblical pattern found in John 4.
Obviously, there are other examples of cross-cultural evangelism. Thus,
there needs to be a healthy balance in missionary efforts. The most
successful Non-Native American missionaries are those who have intentionally
sought to win and disciple Native American believers, teaching them how to do
the same with their own people.
Traditional vs. Non-Traditional Native Americans
Traditional Native Americans are characterized by their use of tribal language,
cultural practices, beliefs, and teachings. Most live on or near
reservations, or in rural communities with a definable Native population.
The majority of traditional Native Americans can be found where reservations
are more isolated from outside cultural influences.
Non-traditional Native Americans are very diverse. Education and contact
with the dominant surrounding culture has contributed to the varying degrees of
assimilation found among this group.
1. Those who abandon their culture and heritage. Tribal language
and cultural practices are lost by severing their ties with the Native American
community. They usually marry non-Native Americans and do not teach their
children Native American heritage.
2. Those who recognize the need to assimilate into the dominant
culture. They maintain only those cultural characteristics that help
them survive in the dominant society.
3. Those who choose to be bilingual and bicultural. This group takes
advantage of both worlds. They tend to be tolerant of past wrongs.
They prefer to live on or near reservations, but are not strongly committed to
it or its cultural practices.
4. Those who have a renewed interest in their cultural heritage.
This group is largely middle-class. They are typically
well-educated. They often voice their objections to past wrongs.
5. Those who openly identify with their cultural heritage.
They have minimal contact with non-Native Americans. They maintain close
ties with tribal members, participate in community activities, and support
Treaties with the U.S. and Native American tribes provided for the
establishment of Native American schools. Most of the schools were
intentionally located away from reservations. Today, many of the boarding
schools are closed or have been relocated to or near Native American
areas. Public schools have become the primary means for education.
Below are significant factors related to Native Americans and education:
The state of the Native American family is in disrepair. Common-law
marriages have become the norm. Many children are born to teenage
mothers, and then raised by grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The extended
family and the clan are core values among Native Americans. It is not
uncommon for Western tribes, who reside on reservations, to have several
members of the extended family living in the same home.
Native Americans who reside in urban areas can be divided into three distinct
groups -- 1st generation, 2nd generation, and 3rd generation.
First Generation Native Americans are those who leave the reservation for more
urban areas. They have close ties with their cultural way and
customs. They also maintain relationships with relatives on the
reservation. When arriving in urban areas, these Native Americans seek
out other relatives and other first generation tribal members to associate
Second Generation Native Americans are one step removed from their tribal
heritage. They develop friendships with both tribal and non-Native
American people. Their knowledge of tribal history and heritage is
Third Generation Native Americans have a modified perception of their
culture. Most do not speak or have knowledge of their tribal
language. More value is placed on success than on maintaining their
tribal heritage. As a result, more importance is placed on education.
In 1992, President George Bush repealed a century-old policy that prohibited
the use of Native American language in schools. This policy was a
contributing factor to the loss of ancestral languages. Today, many
tribes are experiencing a revival of their tribal languages -- at home and in
Tribal religion is closely tied to tribal cultural, presenting many challenges
in the area of evangelism. Many interpret Christian evangelism efforts
to mean they must give up their heritage. Because of this
misconception, the gospel is often met with a cold reception.
Not only is there a revival of tribal languages, but also a revival of tribal
religions. Over the past 200 years, many tribal religions have undergone
different levels of modification. Some new religious practices have been
created. These various religions include Ghost Dance, Peyote, sun Dance,
Sweetgrass, Sweat Lodge, Long House, and the Shaker. The Native American
Church (Peyote religion) is the fastest growing religion among Native
Southern Baptists and Native Americans/First Nations People
The majority of Southern Baptist work is done on reservations, while up to 70%
of these people reside in urban areas. While Southern Baptists are the
most effective evangelistic group in reaching Native Americans, we cannot be
complacent with the amount or quality of our ministry.
Our greatest need is "laborers for the harvest." At any given time, 25%
of our Native American churches are without pastors. Adding this
statistic to the number of church planters needed to begin new works, and one
becomes quickly overwhelmed. We are praying that God will call out a host
of Native American church planters. Please join us in this prayer.
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