This Chuch Grows Missionaries!
Ben Sawatsky interviews Bruce Camp
The First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, California is one of Southern California's best-known evangelical churches. At the heart of this outstanding congregation is a hearty and healthy program of cross cultural ministry.
Rev. Bruce Camp is the pastor for missions and outreach at the church. He outlined a number of areas in which the church is active in promoting and supporting ministry to peoples without the gospel.
"We want to develop a team relationship for ministry with our missionaries," he said. "We support 64 missionary 'units' (either a couple, a family or a single adult), and that's a lot to keep track of. We try to correspond with them monthly, to help them feel a part of what's happening here in Fullerton. Then we want to hear from them regularly to know what they are doing."
Church missionaries on furlough in the area are encouraged to get acquainted with members of the church in informal settings whenever possible. "We like to send a missionary family on each of our church's weekend conferences," Camp explained. "We don't expect them to preach or speak just to be there and get acquainted with our people."
February is the church's 'Missions Emphasis' month. This year Rev. Don Richardson of the USCWM's Institute of Tribal Studies will be a featured speaker during this special time.
Camp is undertaking an evaluation of the church's entire missions program. "We've invited Dr. Ralph Winter to meet with our mission board in March, just to get some added input and ideas," he said. "One thing we want to take a careful look at is how our cross cultural ministry relates to the penetration of the final frontiers of the gospel
One of the most unique features of Fullerton Free's missionary program is the Potential Missionary Fellowship which Camp explains in this interview with Rev. Ben Sawatsky, candidate and orientation director of the Overseas Ministry Board, Evangelical Free Church of America:
BEN SAWATSKY: Bruce, both of us believe that the local church is the institution that God has ordained to grow missionaries. What are you doing at Fullerton to grow missionaries?
BRUCE CAMP: We do two things. We have started what we call our Potential Missionary Fellowship. PMF is a monthly meeting for those interested in missions to come together as a "mutual support" group and also to learn more about missions. We meet on a Sunday evefling for about an hour and a half. There is no pressure for a person to become a missionary. What we are saying is, "Why don't you come and learn about missions and then from that knowledge see if God is directing you on to a career missions path?"
We have a training program that we have developed for potential missionaries. Suppose a person comes to us and says, "I am interested in missions. What do I do?" We have developed a three stage training program. The first stage would be for those who say, "I am interested, but I really don't know that much about missions." The second stage would be for those that say, "Yes, I believe Go,d is leading me into missions" and want to train for it. In the third stage, after their training, right before leaving, finding the mission agency and working together with the mission agency, they and the church finetune their skills, so they can be as prepared as possible before going overseas.
BEN: How many young men and women do you have coming to the Potential Missionary Fellowship?
BRUCE: I would guess between 30 and 50. I think we now have 6570 people on our mailing list who have asked that we keep them informed. However, I would probably say the average is 35-40.
We usually start out with sharing the purpose for the PMF. Then we discuss some papers that we sent to them beforehand to stimulate their thinking, and then someone will talk on a specific issue. It may be Free Church missions, or what it is like to be an MK, or how to prepare for the mission field. We want to know the interests of the people and how we can bring together either people within our church or outside of our church to address the issues. For example, we had Don McCurry come in and speak on reaching the Muslims.
Then we try to spend time at the end praying together in small groups of about 5 or 6 people. We ask for prayer requests and this builds up the support of the group. Occasionally we will bring in a iissionary and ask him to share for about 10 minutes on how he knew God was calling him to the mission field and what he specifically is doing. FMF'ers will be able to see if that is how God is working in their own lives. We are always trying to present models to them of different missionaries and their personalities and their family situations.
BEN: I was interested in your mention of papers that are distributed in advance for their study. Give us an idea of the topics covered in these papers.
BRUCE: The last one I sent out was a paper written by George Peters on how to select a mission board. Before that I had written a paper on the role of the local church in world missions. The whole topic was, "Is the local church central to missions? If it is, what are the implications for us here at Fullerton EFC?" It may be the steps to candidacy within the Free Church. Usually it relates to the topic. We give them something to read and think about because the speaker or one of us will be talking about this.
BEN: Bruce, I was interested in your missionary training program here at First Free. Are all of those who attend the PMF also in the training program?
BRUCE: They will be placed in the training program if they want to be. We have just started this past month and so we haven't put everybody into it. The reason I say this is that at the first step of each level they are supposed to come and talk to me. We try to find out where they are and help pinpoint where they need to be working in the church or what activities would best prepare them for service. Not everybody has come to me. Until they come and talk with me, I won't say they are actually in the program.
BEN: What commitment is required to get into the program?
BRUCE: We have delineated objectives for each step. We tell them, "Here are the books that we would like for you to be involved in." If they don't read the books or get involved in those activities, we will leave them in that step until they decide to have time or are able to complete it. We tell them this is what we would like them to do. There is a lot of flexibility. If a person has been going to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and majoring in missions, we won't ask him to read a lot of our missions books because he has already had those subjects. We want to look at each person as an individual and help him at his level. We look from his viewpoint, the church's viewpoint and the mission agency's viewpoint.BEN: What age span is covered in the PMF?
BRUCE: Most of the people would be ofcollege age or young career age, although we have a few people who are older.
BEN: Bruce, I am really glad that you have launched this program to grow missionaries in the local church. I really believe that this is the place and the setting where it should take place. Let me turn our attention to another aea for just a moment. There is a great deal of talk now about the Frontier Fellowship and the thrust to reach the bypassed or Hidden Peoples. What are you doing at Fullerton to become part of this movement?
BRUCE: I am very excited about this movement. Right now we are slowly getting involved in it. It was in June of 1982 that we introduced the concept of the "Hidden Peoples" to the PMF. Since then, we have supplied every person in the PMF with a copy of the Daily Prayer Guide shown them an audio visual of what we are talking about, and each month when we come together we try to talk about the Hidden Peoples. We want them to be reading, praying and giving towards the Hidden Peoples. We have set up a goal of working on this from June till December of 1982. After that time we will evaluate our approach and see if it is a good program for us and if it would work in other departments of our church.
Our Wednesday night "prayer and share group" is interested in trying it after we evaluate it. Also, I'm interested in trying this with some of our Sunday School classes, but it all depends on how well it is going for us now. If we can get the adequate audio visuals to help us in presenting missions each time, I think there would be no trouble for us presenting it to many segments within our church. Because we are a larger size church and we have a strong emphasis on the Sunday School classes, we are going to go to the Sunday School classes first before we go to the entire church.BEN: How many adult Sunday School classes do you have and what is their average size?
BRUCE: There are about 16 adult Sunday School classes. They may range from 60 to 300. I would imagine most of them are somewhere in the range of 60 to 100 people. Exceptions are the college class with probably 300 and our career class of 300.
BEN: Bruce, I share with you our goal of the Evangelical Free Church of 200 local church chapters of the Frontier Fellowship and 5,000 subscribers to the Daily Prayer Guide What are some of the suggestions you have for us that might help us reach that goal?
There has to be personal contact with pastors or mission board chairmen to encourage them...
BRUCE: I think that is a very worthwhile goal because the need is so great in reaching the Hidden Peoples. I would suggest that there has to be personal contact with pastors or mission board chairmen to encourage them that their church ought to be involved in reaching the Hidden Peoples. You would need to have all your materials designed so that when the church said they would like to try the Hidden Peoples approach for 6 or 12 months, you could supply them with the necessary materials. Perhaps an audio visual of about 5 to 10 minutes in length for each month about the Hidden Peoples that the Free Church works with. Then at these pastors' meetings you could say, "Here are all the materials. Here is why it is crucial that we reach them with our strategy. This is how we can help you and this is what we are expecting of you."
BEN: Thank you, Bruce. May God bless you in your important ministry of promoting missions in the Fullerton Evangelical Free Church.