A former Southern Baptist missionary to East Asia will help Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., launch a major new world missions initiative.

 

Curtis Sergeant, currently associate vice president for global strategies at the International Mission Board in Richmond, Va., announced Feb. 23 that he will join the church's ministry staff to help them implement their new "PEACE" plan.

 

The plan focuses on 3,200 people groups that still have no access to the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.

 

"The International Mission Board has set a goal of engaging all unreached people groups with more than 100,000 population by the end of 2005," Sergeant said. "That's a wonderful goal that will require a God-sized stretch.

 

"Unfortunately, when we meet that goal, there will still be around 3,200 unreached people groups of less than 100,000 population that are not engaged by anyone. It would be many years before missionaries would be able to get the gospel to these peoples."

 

The plan is to mobilize members of the Saddleback Church, along with other congregations -- more than 10,000 believers in the next three years -- to tackle the challenge of reaching those last unreached people groups. Saddleback averages about 22,000 in attendance each weekend.

 

PEACE is an acronym that stands for Planting churches, Equipping leaders, Assisting the poor, Caring for the sick, and Educating the next generation.

 

"I heartily agree with the strategy and priorities the IMB is focusing on. It's only because I am so confident about them that I can feel comfortable in leaving," Sergeant said. "But these other people groups will not be reached for many years unless some major new initiative is launched.

 

"I hope the PEACE Plan, which I have been working with Saddleback to develop, will be a complementary and supplementary approach that can help eliminate that gap by 2010."

 

The PEACE Plan intends to focus God's resources on the world's greatest problems, said Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback, which averages about 22,000 in attendance each weekend.

 

"Over the past year I've spent a lot of time thinking and praying about what God wants to do through our church," said Warren, who is the author of two best-sellers, "The Purpose-Driven Life" and "The Purpose-Driven Church."

 

"We've concluded that there are five great giants or problems in the world," Warren said. "And we designed the PEACE Plan to help local churches address those problems. No government can or wants to handle them, and if you add together all the great relief agencies of the world, their sincere and committed efforts are still only a drop in the bucket compared to the problems in the world.

 

"Yet, the church is God-powered to take on these problems even as we proclaim the good news," Warren said. "There are more churches than any other organization in the world -- with the biggest army of volunteers -- and we have the longevity to get the task done. We're the only entity on the planet that God has promised will last into eternity!

 

"Curtis Sergeant will play a key role as we implement the PEACE Plan, and we are blessed he is able to join us," Warren said.

 

A native of El Dorado, Kan., Sergeant is the son of Southern Baptist missionaries to East Asia. He and his wife, the former Debra Bowser of Springfield, Mass., were appointed by the International Mission Board in 1991. He served as a strategy associate on the board's East Asia leadership team until 2002, when he resigned to join the agency's home office staff in Richmond, Va. He will join the Saddleback staff effective June 28, 2004.

 

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PHOTO:  IMB missionary Mike Loftice discusses the nature of Allah with farmers in a village known as the Village of Witches. Loftice moved with his family to Niger, West Africa, seven years ago to live and work among the Hausa.