Thursday, July 31, 2008

Serving in the World Baptist Family

I wrote this article for the BGCM e-message newsletter that was distributed today. I just returned from the Annual Gathering of the Baptist World Alliance in Prague, Czech Republic. I must admit that my body does not handle the long international trips as well as it did when I was younger. It takes a couple of days for me to recover.

The meeting was a wonderful gathering of the world Baptist family. In just the brief time the Baptist General Convention of Missouri has been a part of the North American Baptist Fellowship and the Baptist World Alliance I have had the opportunity to begin building some significant relationships with Baptists from around the world. Each year we have the opportunity to learn about how Baptists are responding to needs and sharing the Gospel in challenging settings. The Annual Gathering provides several forum discussion times as well as affinity group meetings. Each year I meet with the general secretaries or executive directors from around the world. We share about our ministries, our challenges, and our opportunities. We also spend time praying together.

I also serve on the Development and Advancement Committee of the BWA and the Freedom and Justice Commission. This commission meets several times during the Annual Gathering to hear presentations regarding related issues and to discuss opportunities we have as Baptists to stand with our brothers and sisters who are experiencing persecution or oppression. I also serve as the BGCM representative on the BWA General Council.

This year the General Council approved several recommendations from the Implementation Task Force Report. This task force has been at work for several years exploring ways the BWA can best position itself for effective ministry. I believe the initial recommendations approved this year will help broaden the global input with the global Baptist family. My perspective is for a number of years North Americans have dominated the leadership of the BWA in ways that were not always healthy for the organization. As these changes are implemented over the next two years, the Baptist World Alliance will become even more a “global” organization. Our convention is not a large convention, but through the Baptist World Alliance we are united with the world-wide Baptist family. I hope you will pray for your Baptist brothers and sisters and for the ministry of the Baptist World Alliance.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Global Baptist Family

I just returned from the Annual Gathering fo the BWA in Prague. I wrote this article for the Word&Way issue published while I was attending the BWA meeting. There are still many Baptists in Missouri who know very little about the world Baptist family. The Baptist World Alliance is a fellowship of 214 Baptist conventions and unions comprising a membership of 36 million baptized believers and a community of 105 million. The Baptist World Alliance began in London, England, in 1905 at the first Baptist World Congress.

The mission statement of the BWA is Networking the Baptist family to impact the world for Christ. Our vision statement is The Baptist World Alliance is a global movement of Baptists sharing a common confession of faith in Jesus Christ, bonded together by God’s love to support, encourage and strengthen one another, while proclaiming and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit to a lost world.

Last year at our Annual Gathering Neville Callam was elected as our new General Secretary. This year Baptists from around the world will be gathering to consider the report of our BWA Implementation Task Force. This task force has been leading the efforts of the BWA to think strategically about how we might more effectively accomplish our mission and vision.

The goals of the Baptist World Alliance are: (1) To unite Baptists worldwide, (2) To lead in world evangelism, (3) To respond to people in need, (4) To defend human rights, and (5) To promote theological reflection. The BWA includes six regional fellowships: the All Africa Baptist Fellowship, the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation, the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship, the European Baptist Federation, the Union of Baptists in Latin America, and the North American Baptist Fellowship.

The Baptist General Convention a member of the North American Baptist Fellowship and the Baptist World Alliance. I have the privilege of representing our convention on the General Council at our Annual Gathering each year. It is an incredible experience to fellowship with Baptist brothers and sisters around the world. I hope you will pray for the ministry of the Baptist World Alliance. I hope you will prayer for our brothers and sisters around the world. Many are dealing with incredible challenges as they seek to share the Gospel.

I have been involved in discussions with representatives from several Baptist bodies from the North American Baptist Fellowship who live and serve here in Missouri or the Midwest. We are exploring the possibility of building more intentional relationships to strength our ministries and provide opportunities for greater collaboration for Kingdom ministries. I am grateful for the opportunities our involvement in the BWA brings to the Baptists of Missouri. I hope you will begin planning now to attend the BWA World Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 28 through August 1, 2010. Thank you for being committed to being a part of the global Baptist family.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

BWA Meeting in Prague

I am in Prague in the Czech Republic this week for the Annual Gathering of the Baptist World Alliance. On Tuesday we visited Terezin. In the late 18th century the Habsburg Monarchy erected the fortress near the confluence of the Labe and Ohre Rivers, and named it after Empress Maria Theresa. The fortress was never under direct siege. During the second half of the 19th century the fortress was also used as a prison. During World War I, the fortress was used as a prisoner-of-war camp. During WWII, the Gestapo used TerezĂ­n as a ghetto, concentrating Jews from Czechoslovakia, as well as many from Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Denmark. Though it was not an extermination camp, of the over 150,000 Jews who arrived there, about 33,000 died in the ghetto itself, mostly because of the appalling conditions arising out of extreme population density. About 88,000 inhabitants were deported to Auschwitz and other extermination camps. At the end of the war there were 17,247 survivors. It was liberated on May 9th, 1945 by the Soviet Army.

The visit caused me to have some of the same feelings and emotions I experienced last year as I visited the Slave Castle in Ghana. It is incredible what men will do to their fellowman. Sadly, many times it is done in the name of or with the blessing of religious organizations or institutions.

During our session yesterday morning we had a presentation about the life of John Hus. He was a Czech religious thinker, philosopher, reformer, and master at Charles University in Prague. He was greatly influenced by the teachings of John Wycliffe. The Roman Catholic Church considered the teachings of John Hus heretical. He excommunicated in 1411, condemned by the Council of Constance, and burned at the stake in 1415. Hus was a key contributor to the Protestant movement whose teachings had a strong influence on Martin Luther. As a church history major, I enjoyed the session. It is good to be reminded how much we owe to those who have gone before us. John Hus believed his salvation was based upon Jesus Christ rather than the church. He wanted to scripture to be available in the common languages of the people.

Yesterday afternoon, we heard a report regarding the situation of Palestinian Christians living in Israel (particularly those living in Bethlehem). While no one objects to Israel’s desire to fight terrorists, the extremely difficult situation and living conditions created by the “walling in” of the Palestinian communities is not the answer. Ten of thousands of Christians including many Baptist brothers and sisters have been forced to leave their homes and Israel because of the of governments policies. Many other innocent people continue to suffer. I hope you will join me in praying for peace Israel and for the Christians living in Israel. I am praying for peace, justice and freedom for all people in this trouble part of our world.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Leadership (part 5)

This is the fifth in my series of articles on leadership. We have been exploring the application of five lessons for leaders in the 21st century. They were developed by Joel Barker in a video called Leadershift. This series of articles provides my perspective on the lessons and their application to the local church setting. The fourth of Barker’s lessons relates to our need to examine our leadership style to see how it affects productivity. Barker is primarily working in secular environments. He contrasts the “bully leader” with what he calls the “charismatic leader.”

There has been a significant movement in recent years within a portion of Baptist church life toward a more autocratic leadership style. Some schools and seminaries have advocated a more authoritarian approach to pastoral leadership. Some of the discussion links a rather chauvinistic attitude with a kind of “macho” approach to leadership. Within this model church members are taught never to question their pastor or leaders. It often functions as a very top-down management and leadership style.

It is interesting to me that Barker’s study of corporate leadership styles indicated that this “bully” approach to leadership has been far less effective than a more relational or person-centered approach. In fact many companies have made very intentional decisions to move away from the autocratic and top-down approaches to management, leadership and supervision, because it became clear they were far less productive. Barker’s study indicates the companies utilizing the “bully” approach were simply unable to compete with the more “relational” approach.

Remember the definition of a leader. A leader is someone you choose to follow to a place you wouldn’t go by yourself. People have to choose to follow you. If no one is following, then you are not leading. We can try to “order” or “coerce” people to follow, but these are very poor motivators. We are to build bridges to the future that help people move from where they are to where they want to be. We are leading the people of God on a journey of faith.

The Biblical model for leadership is “servant leadership.” The ultimate model is the suffering servant! Pastors and church leaders seeking to bully or dictate God’s will to their people will never be as effective as those who out of love, compassion and a commitment to God’s will seek to lead their congregations to know and do God’s will. It seems ironic to me that in some cases the corporate world from a secular perspective has learned the value of the Biblical model of leadership more quickly than the church.

Servant leaders understand that people matter. People are the “bottom line.” No holy agenda warrants mistreating or manipulating people. The servant leader is willing to sacrifice himself or herself for those they lead. It is the commitment, integrity, compassion, and vision of the leader that causes people to “choose” to follow a servant leader. Who are the people you choose to follow? What are the characteristics of their leadership style? If you having difficulty leading maybe the place to begin is an examination of your leadership style—your approach to leadership.