OKLAHOMA CITY (ABP) — A website launched May 10 aims to become an online platform for churches, mission organizations, strategists and international partners to collaborate to share the gospel in the 21st century.
"This was born out of a desire for churches to reclaim their place in missions," Tom Ogburn, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, and member a facilitating team for Missions Together, an idea born at a meeting of mission-minded Baptist pastors last fall.
Ogburn was among several friends seeking mission partners and connections that go beyond denominational lines and structures. They wanted to cooperate with partners who had a similar vision, to help create opportunities they could not create on their own and to share resources and ideas. But there wasn't a good way to connect people all over the world apart from identity-driven organizations like the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Southern Baptist Convention.
Ogburn invited about 50 pastors to Oklahoma City in October 2009 to envision what a new collaboration might look like. Consensus from both the meeting and two follow-up conference calls was that what was not needed is the birth of a new denomination or mission organization requiring administrative leadership, offices and staffing. This time the choice was to create an open-source website to share documents, contacts, relationships and opportunities for churches already involved in missions.
"Missions Together seeks, in God's power, to build a covenantal collective of mission-passionate churches, missions partners, strategists and implementers that assist churches and facilitates accomplishing the Great Commission without a sense of competition and without compromising the integrity of our ecclesiology," says a statement on the website missionstogether.org.
Missionstogether.org is a public site that serves as an entry point for those desiring to add their voice to the collaboration. The actual resources are being collected on a password-protected site, missionstogether.net, which costs $25 a month to join.
Limiting access to subscribers, Ogburn said, will allow users to post information like e-mail addresses they might be reluctant to share in an open environment where people can lurk or comment without using their real names.
The facilitation team has seeded the site with some initial information including educational resources, training opportunities, links to mission organizations, and volunteer opportunities both overseas and in the United States. The concept is for those resources to multiply exponentially as subscribers access the site and begin to upload documents, post website links and exchange ideas on discussion boards.
The platform is built with Microsoft Sharepoint, a content-management system with search capabilities designed for businesses to work in a web-based collaborative environment.
"It has been encouraging to see congregations connecting with one another and sharing missional resource and relationship information with each other even before we establish the website," Ogburn said in an e-mail announcing the launch sent to attendees at the Oklahoma City meeting last fall. "I can hardly wait to see what God will do in us and through us as we discover new ways to empower each other and partner with one another for the sake of the Kingdom."
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.