FoNAC plans for 'Dimensions to Native Ministry'

by Karen L. Willoughby, posted Friday, April 21, 2017 (one month ago)

PHOENIX (BP) -- Evangelicals interested in ministering among Native Americans across North America are invited June 10-11 to a two-day conference entitled "Dimensions to Native Ministry."

The conference, hosted by the Fellowship of Native American Christians (FoNAC) is to be hosted by and at First Indian Baptist Church in Phoenix, where Shaun Whitey is pastor.

This event is in conjunction with FoNAC's annual gathering, set for 10 a.m. Monday, June 12, in room 127A of the Phoenix Convention Center. FoNAC's annual meeting comes a day before the start of the June 13-14 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, also set for the Phoenix Convention Center.

"A little over a year ago, a man desiring to become involved in ministry to Native Americans asked how his church could help with FoNAC's ministry," said Gary Hawkins, FoNAC's executive director. The man noted neither he nor his church knew anything about Native Americans, but their church wanted to financially help those involved in doing native ministry.

"FoNAC is developing a network of people, places and partnerships to discover, develop and deploy Native people to share the Gospel among their own, and outward to indigenous people around the world," Hawkins said. "Legacy churches could be a great help", in providing places of worship to those who otherwise could not afford such.

"I realize there are many creative approaches to planting new works," Hawkins noted. "Presently, I pastor a new work in Tulsa, Okla., -- Native Stone Baptist Church -- and we meet in homes. Although this has been a wonderful experience, we feel very limited in carrying out the Great Commission in the way we feel we should, due to limited growth space."

Ministry among Native Americans has changed over the last few years from "going to" to "working with," Hawkins said. This year's Dimensions conference and FoNAC annual meeting were designed to celebrate the positive things happening as a result of this movement among Native Americans and those who minister with them. Four breakout sessions at the conference are to illustrate ways of reaching Native Americans within their cultural context.

The full name of the conference is "Dimensions to Native Ministry; Discover, Develop, Deploy," Hawkins said, explaining that the intent is to discover people, places, and partnerships; develop networks, resources, and ministry teams; and deploy prayer warriors, volunteers, and leaders.

Registration for the no-fee Dimensions conference is to start at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 10, with the first general session at 3 p.m. Warren "Junior" Pratt, pastor of First Indian Baptist Church in Cushing, Okla., is to be the main speaker. Two breakout sessions are to follow a dinner at 5 p.m. provided by the host church.

Lunch will be provided after the 10:25 a.m. Sunday morning worship service at First Indian Baptist Church. Breakout sessions to begin at 1:30 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. will be followed by a general session during which Charles Locklear is to preach. Locklear is pastor of Bethany Christian Fellowship of Pembroke, N.C.

A children's mission day camp, led by Augusta "Gus" Smith, LINK ministries director, will be available both days for youngsters in pre-school and in grades 1-6. LINK is an acronym for a Native women's ministry, the national Living In Neighborly Kindness.

The four breakouts are: "The Biblical Role of the Pastor/Shepherd," led by Ledtkey "Lit" McIntosh, of the Muscogee Creek tribe; "Developing Churches that Thrive in Native Communities" by Mark Custalow, of the Mattaponi tribe; "Women in Leadership" led by Jenny "Big Crow" Andrews of the Oglala Lakota tribe; "Presenting the Gospel through Native Storytelling" by Warren "Junior" Pratt of the Pawnee tribe; "Suicide Prevention" by Carla Parnacher of the Muscogee Creek tribe combined with Life Recovery, a 12-step program, by Alan Washington of the Chickasaw tribe.

Worship leaders for the Dimensions conference are from First Indian Baptist Church of Phoenix, All Nations Baptist Church of Phoenix, and Native Praise, a music ministry of LINK based out of Tulsa, Okla. Native Praise also is to lead worship during the FoNAC annual meeting.

Reports will be given on short-term mission trips to foreign countries such as Canada, Mexico, and the Philippines; Summer camps for children and youth; conferences specifically related to issues facing men and women; and the development of evangelistic and equipping resources designed contextual to Native people to aid in sharing the Gospel.

"FoNAC is a ministry that embraces the need of sending [Native Americans] to the varied native Nations of the United States and Canada, sharing the Word of God in a doctrinally sound, culturally relevant way," Hawkins said.

Discussion will also focus on current issues facing Native Americans and First Nations People of Canada. FoNAC is seeking and praying for new ways of making a more concerted effort to have a more visible presence where large concentrations of Native people are assembled in order to share Christ with the crowds.

Native American church plants or restarts are appearing sporadically in states across America, including one in the heart of Minneapolis, where there is believed to be the highest density population of Native Americans in any city across the nation.

Timmy Chavis, pastor of Bear Swamp Baptist Church in Pembroke, N.C., and FoNAC's treasurer, will bring the group's annual sermon. Chavis also is expected to report that finances are stable, with donations coming in from Native and from non-Native churches.

"FoNAC's mission is to come alongside indigenous people to find out what God is doing among them and to seek ways to encourage, strengthen and support them," Hawkins said. "This includes engaging missional partnerships to serve more in the role of a facilitator assisting them in their efforts in evangelism, leadership development and church planting, realizing this God-sized task can only happen through a network of like-minded prayer partners."

The business session also is to include Hawkins' report of FoNAC activities over the last year and its future plans. In addition, new executive board members will be recognized.

The United States has 567 federally-recognized Native American tribes; Canada has 634 federally-recognized First Nations groups.

Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.
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