The DFW Metroplex, with a population of 7.1 million people is the fourth largest Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) in the United States. Only New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago have larger populations.
In the past decade DFW has moved from being labeled a predominately White and Black, conservative White Collar city, to the 5th most racially diverse metropolitan area in the United States, after only the following: the San Francisco Bay Area, Houston, Los Angeles, and Miami. As such, DFW is fast becoming one of the most ethno-linguistically diverse places in the USA. Out of 3000 plus counties in the USA, Dallas County alone is the 10th most ethno-linguistically diverse county in the USA. The metroplex is the home to people who speak at home between 300-400 languages on a daily basis.
The population of most of these people groups is small, frequently no more than a few hundred. However, they have strategic importance to Kingdom advancement in at least two ways. First, while each individual people group may not be numerically significant, taken together, they make up as much as 40 % of the total population. Perhaps more significantly, their presence in the middle of the Bible belt puts each of these people groups within easy reach of Baptists and other evangelicals who believe in a “panta ta ethne” approach to fulfilling the Great Commission. Because of technology, today’s immigrants and refugees can and do maintain relationships with family and friends still living in their countries of origin, making possible a global missions strategy that actually begins in America’s urban centers. Dallas, TX is uniquely positioned to be one of several flash points for a worldwide gospel movement that can result in Great Commission fulfillment.
Under the leadership of Dr. Bob Dean, Dallas Baptist Association has made the evangelization of Dallas’ unreached people groups one of five focus initiatives. Through this focus initiative, DBA provides three levels of involvement.
The “entry level” requires a minimal amount of commitment , and is designed to help local churches and individuals become more aware of the ethnic diversity of their neighborhood or city. Individuals are encouraged to pick an unreached people group that intrigues them and then commit to pray for them on a daily basis. Or, they may join in one of the several People Group Census events that will take place in 2017.
At the “intermediate level,” churches and individuals identify persons of peace through occasional ministries and casual but intentional relationship building. More in depth training will be provided to equip participants throughout 2017.
At the “advanced level,” churches and individuals adopt a people group, trusting in God’s power to work through them to evangelize and establish a church among them. DBA will provide churches and individuals with the training they need to accomplish this.
To support the focus initiative, DBA provides several tools:
- Prayer Cards, with prayer points relating to the most unreached peoples living in Dallas. We distributed about 200 of these to our churches at the 2016 DBA Annual Celebration. One of the people groups that we have been praying for—the Anuak people of S. Sudan/Uganda—has recently been engaged by one of our catalytic church planters—Kika Jamir.
- Coaching church planters in cross-cultural evangelism/church planting strategies. DBA’s consultant for unreached people groups, Tim Ahlen, is currently discipling a group of 25 Zomi people from Myanmar, who are meeting in a home just north of Lake Highlands. He is also coaching several church planters and ministers of missions in people group ministry.
- Research is still an important part of DBA’s outreach because of the constantly shifting landscape of our metroplex. DBA is working closely with the IMB to develop and populate the online database of people groups living among us.
- College Interns. We are also working with Criswell College students enrolled in a class called Domestic Missions Practicum. Tim Ahlen meets with the class for 1 ½ hours per week, training them how to do basic people groups research. The information we gather is put into our database. In Fall 2016, five students studied the following people groups: Bengalis, Merathis, Urdus, Afghanis, Shiite Muslims.
- Advanced Training. DBA is also in discussion with B.H. Carroll Theological Institute to provide advanced training in local missions, beginning with a certificate track, similar to the programs we offer through our Hispanic Seminary and Dallas Bible Theological Institute.
Program Assessment and Challenge
As we enter into the third year of focus on unreached people groups, DBA has made some significant progress:
- Our churches are more aware of the significance of the changes going on around us and the opportunities and imperatives for Great Commission fulfillment.
- We now have about 75 churches ministering to about that many different people groups.
- The peoplegroups.info database is becoming more and more useful as it is populated with verified information.
- We have actually seen several examples of churches that have reached, discipled and commissioned missionaries to go back to serve their homelands.
- The challenges can be reduced to one bottom line issue: Most of our churches have not answered the call to engage an unreached people group here in Dallas, which means that hundreds of thousands of Dallas residents are being consigned to an eternity in Hell.