Published Feb 28, 2023
ONTARIO – For those who have previously been involved in SBC missions, Missions College is a well-established training event traditionally hosted in Richmond, Virginia. For those who may not know, Missions College is a hands-on training event for pastors, church leaders, mission trip participants, and church members who are engaged in short-term, mid-term, and long-term missions or who are interested in partnering with IMB teams.
In 2022 Missions College held two training events: IMB’s regular event in Richmond and a second training in Russellville, Arkansas. 2023 saw Missions College make its way to California, where 328 participants registered for this interactive 3-day experience.
Field missionaries, representing 5 of the IMB’s eight affinity regions, were on hand to lead out in a robust offering of seminars and breakout sessions.
“It’s a strategic decision to host Missions College at Gateway Seminary,” said Pete Ramirez, Executive Director of the California Southern Baptist Convention. “We look like the world because the world has come to California, and now the Gospel can go back out into the world.”
Lloyd Rodgers and his wife Connie, who are part of the America’s affinity group (the team that was instrumental in establishing Missions College over a decade ago), today serve as career M’s in Columbia. The couple also gives leadership as stateside training partners for the American Peoples affinity group.
When asked about the wins from having Missions College in California, Rodgers said, “As a missionary to the America’s, California Southern Baptist’s can have an impactful ministry being a neighbor state to Mexico, ministering to displaced people on the border.”
He went on to say, “a win for us is seeing church people learning to be more effective in engaging the lost, while also helping connect the agencies together, like this partnership between, IMB, Gateway and the CSBC. Missions College is a great start in connecting missionaries with real California Southern Baptist church leaders.”
Near the close of the event, IMB staffers gathered to debrief, where a multitude of affirmations were publicly shared. Comments such as (names are anonymous to protect field workers):
“This is the first time we partnered with a seminary to put this event on. Being on the West Coast of CA has been very affirming for us.” ~ IMB Missionary
“We need to be paying more attention to California.” ~IMB Staffer
“I’ve never been in a room with such diversity in worship… Even on the field.” ~ IMB Missionary
“California can hold its head up high. [They] all showed up!” ~IMB Missionary
“We’ve enjoyed the enthusiasm, excitement, and energy of these California participants. There’s been a sense of hunger for what we have to offer.” ~IMB Staffer
“I love the vibe of California, and their heartbeat for lostness.” ~IMB Missionary
“I was impressed with how many young people were here…To see young people interested in missions is very encouraging.” ~IMB staffer
“It’s encouraging to see people getting excited. We know the IMB can learn from California.” ~IMB Missionary
The notion that Missions College could be viewed as a symbiotic event was a theme discussed throughout the week. Rodgers talked about the potential for cross-training between California Baptists and the IMB, saying, “we are grateful for California’s variety of cross-cultural experiences, much more than we’ve seen in any other state.” Rodgers went on to say We are looking for California Baptists to teach us how to incorporate in a multilingual context. Even logistically, how do you linguistically put on an event when your audience is so diverse? California is helping us figure that out.”
Francis Chung, Missions Initiative Team Leader for the California Southern Baptist Convention, took the idea even further, saying, “California matters and is not forgotten. The SBC is, again, realizing the importance of our state. That narrative is changing for the good, and Missions College helped to create this paradigm shift.”
California Baptists also had a great deal to say about their time at Missions College.
Martin Lopez, an associate pastor for The Church at Green Hills, said, “I took the Strategy Coaching track. It was a real affirmation of what we have been doing at our church in La Habra. We learned about the importance of developing long-term, personal connections, not just with the missionaries, but with the ‘regular people’ who live in that region, even in short term mission trips. My college-aged daughter is still connected with other young Romanian people from a short-term trip we took in June.”
Charlie Speelman, DOM for High Desert Southern Baptist Association, said, “I care about missions. I have been on over 70 short-term mission trips in my life. Every church member should go on a short-term mission trip,” he continued. “It will change our view of the lost. Yes, we fund missions through the Cooperative Program, but we can win people for Christ here if we get a taste of it on the mission field.”
Ramirez affirmed this idea as well. “It’s a great opportunity for churches who have a desire to fulfill the Great Commission. It’s an entry point to learn about and connect with the International Mission Board. In other words, Missions College is an opportunity to call out the called.”
In a worship session on Friday evening, attendees were encouraged to participate in a collective prayer campaign and to actively respond to the Spirit’s leading in and around a call toward missions.
According to the IMB staffers, Missions College has four desired outcomes:
- First, participants will learn how to effectively share the gospel in a cross-cultural context.
- Second, participants will learn how to effectively disciple new believers in a cross-cultural context with the goal of planting biblically healthy churches.
- Third, participants will learn strategies for leading their church in praying for the lost in partnership with IMB teams.
- Finally, participants will meet IMB field personnel and learn about opportunities to partner with IMB teams.
With the need for quality Missions training to be available across the United States, it is uncertain whether Missions College will come back to the west coast in the near future, but nothing has been decided to date.
Mission College’s success was achieved due to the cooperative efforts of The International Mission Board, Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Missions Initiative Team of the California Southern Baptist Convention.
Francis Chung, Missions Initiative Team Leader of the California Southern Baptist Convention, affirmed, “Without the collaboration between Gateway, the IMB, and CSBC, Mission College CA would not have been possible. Each entity brought specific resources that were absolutely vital – facilities, practical experience and knowledge, or finances and relationships. This shows that we truly are better together.”