- January 23, 2014
- By Ken Camp / Managing Editor
PLANO—Missions expert Kent Parks believes Christians are called to share the gospel—not just haphazardly but strategically to spark movements among previously unreached people groups.
Act Beyond, formerly known as Mission to Unreached Peoples.“When we focus on starting movements, it is more comprehensive and transformative than a lot of the random stuff we call missions,” said Parks, president of
Not that Parks lacks respect for traditional missions methods. Born in Indonesia to missionary parents, he spent 20 years as a missionary in Southeast Asia with the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and he holds a doctorate in missiology.
However, he believes when Christians genuinely follow the New Testament model—particularly the way Jesus sent out his disciples as recorded in Luke 10—it begins movements that result in multiplied numbers of disciples and churches.
“In the book of Acts, only three people—Paul, the Ethiopian eunuch and Sergius Paulus—came to faith by themselves. All others came to faith in a group,” he observed.
“Today, we are seeing whole groups coming to faith. The context in which first-century Christians served was just as complex and multicultural as it is today. We are called to do the same thing they did. And lo and behold, we find it works.”
That’s why the organization Parks leads changed its name and fine-tuned its purpose.
“Six years ago, … (Mission to Unreached Peoples) existed to send anybody who wanted to do missions, with little definition,” he noted.
Today, Act Beyond focuses on equipping mission teams to go to unreached people groups with the strategic goal of starting movements that result in multiplied numbers of churches and disciples. The new name challenges Christians to “act beyond” what has been done before and recognizes God’s desire to “act beyond” all that can be asked or imagined, he noted.
'Movements of God'
Parks likes to speak generally of “movements of God” rather than church-starting movements or disciple-making movements, because both aspects are involved, and he wants to avoid a perceived overemphasis on one to the exclusion of the other.
He points to several characteristics of movements born out of a Luke 10 model: Prayer dominates the process; Christians who enter new areas ask God to guide them to a “person of peace” who can influence his or her neighbors and open doors; Christians teach simple Bible lessons to households; and “outsiders” equip “insiders” to become group leaders and equippers who rely on the Holy Spirit.
Christians from outside the culture should function as catalysts, not “providers” of ongoing ministry, Parks insisted. Act Beyond’s approach emphasizes the importance of demonstrating a simple Bible study method and then handing over leadership as quickly as possible to people within the group being reached.
“People who have never made groups of disciples become effective at reproducing disciples,” he said. “It’s about reproducing disciple groups that will transform society from within.”
The approach Act Beyond advocates—coupled with a focus on unreached people groups—has resulted in remarkable missions advances, Parks’ father, Keith Parks—former president of the SBC Foreign Mission Board and first global missions coordinator for the CBF—writes in God’s Secret Plan.
“We are witnessing perhaps the greatest expansion of the gospel since the early centuries,” he writes. “Why are we amazed when biblical models work?”
6,000 unreached people groups
Some missiologists estimate 29 percent of the world lacks access to the gospel, and they have divided 6,000 unreached people groups into 43 clusters within 12 affinity blocs, Kent Parks explained.
Strategically, groups that focus on sparking church-starting and disciple-making movements have estimated 43,000 teams of two to six members each could reach these 43 clusters. Act Beyond set a goal of equipping and sending 1 percent of the total—430 teams—in 10 years, Parks said.
The approach is simple to teach and replicate, but it can be difficult for churches to grasp, he acknowledged. Even so, he is able to point to several Texas Baptist churches that “get it” and have pledged support—notably First Baptist Church in Plano.
The Plano church provided Mission to Unreached Peoples office space and continues to include Act Beyond in its missions offering. Pastor Jerry Carlisle serves as chair of Act Beyond’s board of directors.
“The methods Act Beyond equips leaders to employ are holistic, sustainable, collaborative and transformational,” Carlisle said. “As a congregation, we embrace that kind of ministry and are seeking to initiate church planting movements here in Plano and among the Hulu people of Southeast Asia.
“I am privileged to lead a board that reflects Act Beyond field personnel—strong, innovative, diverse, dedicated and effective.”
While its key leaders are deeply rooted in Baptist life, Act Beyond operates across denominational lines. The approach it advocates demands diversity, collaboration and cooperation, Parks noted.
“I have never seen a more comprehensive way to deliver the gospel in word and deed than this biblical approach,” he said. “It’s not an approach that is complex and shallow. This is simple and deep.
“It will transform many lives. It’s already changing people’s lives around the world.”