When Dimas Castillo, senior pastor of Living Hope Community Church in Jacksonville, N.C., decided to attend the International Mission Board’s (IMB) Mission College, he had little idea of what to expect.
“I had never been to the Missions College — I didn’t even know that those things existed,” Castillo said. “When I looked at the information, I said that this would be really interesting to learn more about missions and how to be involved in missions and things like that.
“And so, I took the opportunity.”
After accepting an invitation from his mission catalyst, Castillo joined more than 50 North Carolina Baptist pastors and church leaders at the IMB’s International Learning Center outside of Richmond, Va., to participate in the annual Missions College.
The event, which took place on Jan. 4-7, saw more than 300 church and ministry leaders from across the U.S. come together for intensive training on cross-cultural missions, taught directly by IMB missionaries. Through multiple sessions and various learning tracks, attendees were given foundational principles for engaging cultures around the world with the gospel.
For pastors such as Castillo, the event helped give him a vision to see his church reach the nations.
“[Our church has] done some trips to the Appalachian region and New York … but we have never done anything outside the United States,” Castillo said. “As I was in the conference, listening, I could hear God speaking, ‘You know, this may be something you want to be thinking about.’”
Castillo said the Missions College gave him practical training to lead his church in cross-cultural mission work, and it gave him greater awareness of the need to join in the mission.
“[Looking] at international missions, that was not something I was too familiar about. This conference offered me the opportunity to learn more, to learn about the process, learn a little bit more about this cross-cultural way of sharing the gospel,” Castillo said.
Those who attended were given the opportunity to focus on a particular 11-hour learning track, which included topics such as cross-cultural evangelism and discipleship, foundations for mission, displaced peoples, global cities and more. Participants also attended breakout sessions featuring topics such as short-term trips, next-generation missions, introduction to storying and more.
Each night, following the regular sessions, N.C. Baptists gathered together with mission catalysts to debrief their sessions and to hear about mission opportunities from missionaries active on the field.
“I think it’s good for pastors to be at an event where for three and a half days, they are immersed in conversations about missions,” said Russ Reaves, mission catalyst for N.C. Baptists. “All that’s talked about here is missions. And I would love to see that become the norm for N.C. Baptists — that when we’re together, the topic of our conversation is the mission of God.”
Some pastors saw the event not only as a way to encourage the church to engage in international mission work, but also as a way to develop a “missions mindset” for people in their neighborhood.
“It can be hard to get people to go across the street. But when you’re talking about taking a team overseas, that’s kinda exciting,” said Chris Benfield, pastor of Shady Grove Baptist Church in Boonville. “And then you go, and they develop that missions mindset, so it will be hopefully something that will last even after you come home.”
Brandon Watson, associate pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Knightdale, agreed, saying that trainings such as the Missions College give people “missiology” and help people learn “how to better complete the task.”
“As cooperative as we can be, we have to figure out how we can better do it together,” Watson said.
The Missions College gave these pastors and other church leaders the opportunity to learn practical ways to be on mission together to reach the nations. In February, the IMB will host another Missions College training event in Los Angeles, Calif., to mobilize others to respond to lostness.
“We’re all in agreement that God is at work among the nations,” Castilo said. “We just need to pray and send people out there to do the work.”