‘Mission From the Gospels’ program aids Cleveland minister in foreign, domestic missional pursuits

The Rev. Dr. Ronald Carlson, ABHMS missional church strategist and co-creator of ‘Mission Fromthe Gospels,’ and Lachaka Askew, founder of the ‘20 Second Intercessor’ website and an interfaith dialogue group

When a Cleveland, Ohio-area minister sought a way to bring both foreign and domestic non-Christians to salvation through Christ by bridging religious and cultural divides, she found the solution in “Mission From the Gospels,” a program created by a partnership of American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) and American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin (ABCofWI).

“It’s a bit of a daunting task—there’s this cultural barrier, and there’s a bit of a fear [of approaching non-Americans],” says Lachaka Askew, founder of both the “20 Second Intercessor” website and a Cleveland-area interfaith dialogue group. “Even though there are Iraqi and Egyptian Christians, you still have the stigma of relating to people from overseas who don’t like Americans as a general rule. How do you bridge that gap? [The “Mission From the Gospels”] approach is a solution.

Since her introduction to “Mission From the Gospels, Askew says, “I approach people not from ‘I have to talk to you about Jesus Christ’ but from the missional standpoint of the mindset of the apostles having to deal with the gentiles. Approaching from common ground gets rid of that cultural stress because people already believe that there’s a connection there through the mission work.”

“Mission From the Gospels” is a program intended to help faith groups use the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as well as Acts to take mission beyond the church’s walls into communities. It was created by the Rev. Dr. Ronald Carlson, ABHMS missional church strategist, and visiting professor of Missional Church Studies at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Shawnee, Kan., and the Rev. Sam Brink, ABCofWI’s minister of Church Resources and Mission Support.

Askew was among the participants in “Mission From the Gospels” leadership training with Cleveland Baptist Association. She was alerted to the training through attendance at Church of the Master, Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

“In winter, we pass out scarves and hats. I go around the city, and I tie them to poles [for people who might need them.] While I’m walking and doing that, I usually speak with people—ex-felons and the homeless,” Askew says. “How I was taught was that you walk up to a person with a tract and immediately start talking about Jesus Christ. The [“Mission From the Gospels”] training is that you approach it from the precepts of the gospels—an apostolic perspective—first, and then you talk about salvation. I go to them from a relational, missional aspect or point of view.”

Askew’s empathy and ability to minister to people of non-Christian faiths—particularly Muslim women—is further strengthened by racist experiences resulting from her decision to wear a head covering as part of a self-imposed vow of consecration she took upon entering United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio.

“I’ve been spit at and cursed at,” she says. “If people are like that to me, imagine how they are to Muslim women. This is stuff these women are dealing with daily. It’s funny that [U.S. businessman and presidential candidate] Donald Trump talks about building a wall, when there is already a cultural and spiritual wall that is constantly being added to daily.”

Askew says that Iraqis, Egyptians and Moroccans with whom she communicates via her website and social media are drawn to the fact that her head covering resembles their own, she says.

“I didn’t set out to do that—that’s how I know it’s the Lord’s will,” she says. “I didn’t change [my approach] to make it Muslim-friendly. I still talk about Christ.”

While Askew’s website reaches individuals overseas, her interfaith dialogue group focuses on the Cleveland area. It is comprised of 10 elders and 25 volunteers from various faith traditions. The group seeks to build community not only by meeting once monthly for discussion at the local library but also by cooperating with other faith groups to engage missionally. For example, the group has sent bottled water to Flint, Mich.; fed hot soup to the homeless; urged companies to hire ex-offenders; and assisted an organization that supplements church members’ finances. The group is cooperating with one church to start a peer prayer support group for teens and working with another to plan a holiday event for the homeless.

Choose the approach that’s right for your organization

“Mission From the Gospels” features two approaches:

  • Christian education classes, Sunday school classes, Bible study groups and other organizations that may want to begin mission can follow a six-unit introduction that helps them to view the gospels as missional texts and guides them in putting Biblical learnings into practice in real-world contemporary contexts. For this approach, a resource in PDF format can be used as a Christian education curriculum.
  • Mission teams and other groups that are already engaged in mission can follow a more intense six-unit study based on experiential, peer-to-peer learning and biblical reflection. This approach uses an interactive website as well as resources in PDF format.

Resources will be available September 2016. For more information and a preview of the work in progress, visit www.missionfromthegospels.com.