Malcolm P. Burleigh is setting more of a team approach to the seven departments of Assemblies of God U.S. Missions as he begins a second four-year term as executive director, following his overwhelming August reelection at General Council in Orlando, Florida.
“We’re better together has got to be more than a phrase,” Burleigh says. “It’s got to become a mind-set.”
Burleigh oversees a diverse group of specialized missionaries including those: discipling students on college campuses; fighting human trafficking; ministering in the inner city; helping those with life-controlling issues; caring for orphans; and even those taking the gospel to those on recreational trails. In all, U.S. Missions has more than 1,000 nationally appointed missionaries and nearly 800 endorsed chaplains. When project volunteers are included, the stateside missions team numbers over 18,000, an all-time high. They are involved in long-term commitments to specific people groups, a task individual congregations can’t accomplish, according to Burleigh.
“U.S. Missions is the best-kept secret in our Fellowship,” says Burleigh, who notes that giving actually has increased during COVID-19.
The largest number of full-time U.S. missionaries are involved with Chi Alpha Campus Ministries and Chaplaincy Ministries. But a growing number are part of the wide-ranging Intercultural Ministries. Burleigh is enthused about the effort to reach various ethnicities, noting that the U.S. is now the third largest mission field in the world, behind China and India. Burleigh points out that the U.S. has a record 44.8 million foreign-born population.
“Unreached and unengaged people groups aren’t just overseas,” says Burleigh, who turns 71 on Oct. 24. “Now they are across the street. They own some of the convenient stores, gas stations, and small hotels in this country. You can walk into many of our city neighborhoods and never hear English spoken at all.”
Connecting with unreached people groups also is occurring at colleges and universities through Chi Alpha.
“A lot of international students are in the U.S. for education on campuses where Chi Alpha groups are located,” says Burleigh, an African American who will celebrate 50 years of marriage next month with his Hispanic wife, Maria. “If they come to faith in Christ, some will go back home to countries that are closed to traditional missionaries. But they will become leaders in their nations and spread the gospel.”
Burleigh acknowledges that after first being elected, it took him a year and a half in his new role just to get up to speed on the existing seven cultures within U.S. Missions. Now he believes he has a better working relationship with department heads because he forged an overall team approach to the vision of U.S. Missions. Burleigh, who regularly prays in his office before the workday begins to seek God’s direction, likewise is cultivating a different way of communicating with the 67 AG districts and ministry networks.
“I want to have a cohesive, collaborative partnership with districts in which we share responsibility as well as accountability,” Burleigh says. He is passionate about the newest U.S. Missions focus, U.S. Specialized, a joint effort with AG districts/ministry networks.
“A U.S. missionary is assigned to a district and the district determines what the vision or assignment is,” Burleigh says. “However, the accountability, vetting, reporting, and training will all come from U.S. Missions. The U.S. missionary won’t deplete district finances.”
Two such missionaries have been approved so far: Carl R. Bauchspiess is working with the Ohio Ministry Network to facilitate “dinner churches” and Jason W. Jacques is part of the Southern Missouri District effort to revitalize church men’s ministry.
Another U.S. Missions department engaged in collaboration is Church Mobilization, renamed from the former U.S. Mission America Placement Service. The scope has moved beyond RVers, to also include district church teams mustering to assist in construction and disaster relief projects as well as church team evangelism training and education development.
Burleigh says a model for U.S. Missions is Jesus’ parable of the net in Matthew 13:47: “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.”
Connecting districts and ministry networks with U.S. Missions is like casting a net, rather than using a fishing pole individually, he says.
“If we’re really going to maximize bringing in the harvest, we’re going to have to network,” Burleigh says. “It will only happen through relationships.”
Assemblies of God General Superintendent Doug Clay agrees.
“Malcolm has an unwavering commitment to see the Great Commission fulfilled in America,” says Clay.