I have been part of a truly unique meeting … at least for Baptists. While I am tempted to write about what it was not, in comparison to previous denominational meetings and conferences, I really only need to describe what the Baptist World Alliance Congress was. The difference is clear!
The BWA’s every five-year congress was a gathering of 4000 plus Baptists from 105 countries. Those who attended were representatives of conventions, organizations, or just members of local churches. We met not to fight each other or oppose another group but to worship Jesus Christ and give witness to his lordship in our collective lives and churches. While attendees were wildly diverse in language, dress, heritage, and culture, we embraced each other with respect and in dignity as brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ. Highlights for me were meeting and interacting with two ladies from Nigeria (one a pastor and the other a deacon), listening to a young man from India tell me of his hopes and dreams, and seeing old friends from Sri Lanka.
The theme of the gathering was Hear the Spirit. Speakers repeatedly called on us to do the work of ministry and missions in the anointing and power of the Spirit – not in the flesh or via our own authority. This was like a sweet, refreshing breeze in a day of large, self-important personalities and power struggles within Baptist life. I leave Honolulu energized, challenged, and hopeful.
- Energized by so many conversations with brothers and sisters from around the world.
- Challenged by the testimony of those who endure so much in their witness to Jesus.
- Hopeful that unity and collaboration can be a reality in my lifetime.
Did I agree with everything said? Was I comfortable with all we did? No on both counts. But for some reason, I did not feel the need to agree with everyone on everything nor did I feel pressured to conform on peripheral issues. Unity in the Spirit for witness and love was more than enough reason to gather and is reason for great hope.