Seemingly every year, the annual Southern Baptist Convention manages to stir the pot and attract the attention of onlookers and the mainstream media alike. Last year, it was the invitation extended to Vice-President Mike Pence to speak — an invitation he accepted — not to mention the kerfuffle involving Paige Patterson during the runup to last year’s Convention. The year before, it was a denunciation of the alt-right. I don’t know what it will be this year, but I’m sure the SBC will cook up something for many of us to get worked up into a tizzy over. Unfortunately, while attention is often focused on the SBC’s missteps, unimportant happenings at the Convention, or overblown “controversies,” other interesting and, more importantly, edifying events are overlooked. One such event is the annual meeting of the Fellowship of Native American Christians (FoNAC).
On June 10 at noon, Native American Christians dressed in the traditional clothes of their tribe will gather at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex to celebrate their faith in Christ while giving those attending the Southern Baptist Convention in Birmingham, Ala., the opportunity to learn more about their native cultures.
It’s also an opportunity for FoNAC to help spread the word about their unique ministry to Native Americans. Speaking to Baptist Press, FoNAC Executive Director Gary Hawkins explained, “Every year without fail, people who have a desire to learn more about ministry with Native Americans and FoNAC will meet us at the Many Faces booth in the Exhibit Hall and tell us, ‘I wish I would have known the meeting was open to all. I would have come!’ Here’s your invitation: Come and join us!”
The front page of FoNAC’s website boldly proclaims, “Our primary focus is impacting lost-ness among Native Americans with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Amen, and amen!
The organization’s mission statement provides further evidence that they are focused on fidelity to the gospel while embracing their unique cultures:
To serve as a ‘Catalyst’ for ministries connected with Native Americans, FoNAC will lend voice and visibility to the 567 tribes across the USA on a national level. Networking with individuals, churches, associations, and state conventions to initiate partnerships for Native ministry. Develop resources relevant to Native culture while remaining true to the Word of God. Identify and facilitate existing ministries who are working to develop indigenous church planters and mission pastors. Work with national networks and SBC partners to assist in planting Native congregations in Send Cities.
At the meeting on June 10, attendees will hear Pastor Josh LeadingFox, a member of the Oklahoma Pawnees, deliver the annual message. Hawkins told BPNews that “Josh will present a challenging message from the Word of God, delivered from a young Native minister’s perspective.”
As well as the annual message, hymns and other songs of faith will be performed using traditional Native American instruments and musical styles. BPNews reports:
A highlight from last year — Junior Pratt and his family dancing, drumming and singing in Pawnee to convey the Gospel — will return this year.
“The Pratt family will once again demonstrate through tribal hymns and dance how the Gospel message can be used in a contextualized manner that speaks volumes to the heart language of Native people,” Hawkins said.
Jonah Cypress of the Seminole tribe will lead worship. He is the worship leader of Miccosukee Trail Indian Baptist Mission in Clewiston, Fla., and is “a familiar face to the Seminole Indians of Florida. He has served the Lord with his talents for many years,” Hawkins said.
“Our goal for this year’s gathering,” FoNAC’s Executive Director Hawkins revealed, “is to strengthen our network of Native missions, missionaries and partners working together to develop indigenous-led ministries that will become involved in evangelism, discipleship, leadership development and church planting.”
If you’re in the Birmingham area, the location of this year’s Southern Baptist Convention, FoNAC’s annual meeting sounds like an event that will be well worth your time to attend.