The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
About 90% of the Native Americans have minimal or no connection to Christianity. “There are no mega-churches with Indians, but we have people who love the Lord”, Emerson Falls, former chairman of FoNAC, said.
At least 100,000 Native Americans live in 14 states across USA. Less than 30% of the them live on reservation lands. The rest live in large cities, assimilating somewhat to the culture of the city or town where they live.
A high percentage (90%) “have minimal or no connection to Christianity”, Gary Hawkins, the executive director of Fellowship of Native American Christians (FoNAC), told Baptist News.
Though the largest numbers of Native Americans live in New York City, Phoenix and Los Angeles, the two states with the largest numbers of churches are in Oklahoma (200) and North Carolina (70), Hawkins reported.
FoNAC's mission is "to serve as a catalyst, seeking and praying for a movement of God starting among the indigenous people of North America and extending to all nations."
Hawkins´ travels over the last 12 months took him to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Louisiana, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming and Oklahoma. In the USA, about 430 Southern Baptist congregations identify as Native American.
A World View Summit for First Nations and Native Americans took place last September in Montana. Participants represented tribal people from the Creek, Cherokee, Modoc, Mayan, Navajo, Otoe and First Nations from Quebec. It was cohosted by FoNAC and Great Commission Initiative.
"There are no mega-churches with Indians, but we have people who love the Lord", Emerson Falls, former chairman of FoNAC, said. "If we do it together, there is nothing that can stop us from doing what God wants."
"It's time for us as Native American churches to step up to the plate, to involve Native American churches in planting Native American churches, FoNAC is a a channel for you to be involved. When Indian churches help Indian churches, we can get it done", he added.
“WORK WITH NATIVE AMERICANS”
FoNAC has prayed and strategised to find a better way to bring the gospel to their people. Its new paradigm is to work with - not for - Native Americans to reach others within their circles of influence.
"We are trying to take the approach not to be people going to them but people coming from them, and that's a slow process, to evangelise and from that develop leaders", Hawkins explained.
"Everything we do needs to be about making disciples. Every church is to be a missions-sending centre. Every believer needs to be a missionary. Every believer's home needs to be an outpost for evangelism", Mark Custalow, church planting team leader for the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia and a Native American, said during the Summit.
A two-day training conference will take place on June 11-12, 2017 in Phoenix. Workshops will include creative insight into spreading the Gospel; evangelism using Native American storytelling; native women discovering and developing their God-given leadership skills; coaching and mentoring new believers; and pressing issues encountered by reservation and urban Native Americans.