KANSAS CITY — Omar Segovia, who is a Missouri Southern Baptist pastor, may just have the world at his fingertips.
Segovia’s flock is Central Baptist Church. He is a Chilean who was raised in Canada and who grew in the faith in Egypt. He speaks Arabic and Spanish, dreams of the day when all tribes and tongues and people groups will bow the knee to Christ Jesus, and imagines what his King, the Author of Salvation, would do were He to physically show up on the mission field known as Independence Avenue.
“If Christ was walking down the street, he would be switching different languages every block,” Segovia said. “He’d definitely be speaking Vietnamese, Spanish, inner-city black American, and high education. There’s this island of medical and young professionals that have moved into the neighborhood. I feel comfortable in all the groups.”
Segovia, a recent graduate of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, took time out of his busy schedule to visit with The Pathway on the steps of the Central Baptist building May 21. He gave much credit to his associate pastor, Matthew Inman, an Anglo who has been faithful to witness door to door as well as to move into the neighborhood. There are an estimated 42 nations and 22 languages represented along the avenue in the historic northeast part of the city.
Crucial to the 2012 success is Tom Johnston, professor of evangelism at the seminary and founder/director of Midwestern’s evangelism team. He has been a strict yet fun-loving master of the eclectic mosaic that is Independence Avenue.
“My students in my basic evangelism class must share the gospel with 12 people and bring them to a point of decision,” Johnston said. “I see it as obeying ‘if you will confess me before men, I will confess you before my Father who is in heaven.’”
Johnston’s foot soldiers have seen “many, many” conversions along the avenue.
“I try not to act like I’ve got notches on my belt, because that’s not the whole idea,” Johnston said. “The whole idea’s being faithful. God is doing amazing things.”
Johnston noted that seminary students can evangelize wherever they want. Many choose to come here, though, because it does seem convenient.
“It is seven miles—10 minutes from the seminary, completely untouched by the seminary in 2004, as far as I knew,” he said. “Then we began to branch out. Different students kind of got hearts for different churches.”
Other key elements of the Kansas City strategy would appear to be organic in nature. These points include a place, Eleos Coffee, which is located in a high-crime area, and a planter, Rich Casebolt, who has been trained by the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC). The system also appears to be in sync with the new MBC narrative of developing leaders, becoming disciples, and missional living.
“I believe that God is still raising up people and sending them in places like this that would really be considered by many a kind of no-man’s land—kind of undesirable places to be,” Casebolt said.