The Baptist World Alliance convenes our World Congress this week. Baptist Christians from more than 500 hundred countries are represented by the BWA. Among the very good friends that we will see are our mission partners from the countries supported by the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cambodia, India and the Philippines.
It is perfectly clear when standing shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters from this beautiful Baptist world family that God’s great kingdom mission is global and it is spirit led. As Texas Baptists, our international participation, whether through mission trips or in Congress of Baptist leaders, provokes an overwhelming feeling of stewardship. We are stewards of a great family of God’s people. As US Baptists we are also stewards of a wealthy, free, expressive church. These gifts are not universal nor or they to be lavished only on ourselves; our gifts are to be used in stewardship for God’s great kingdom and His family worldwide.
At Wheaton College, during the recent Evangelical Consultation on Government, Foreign Assistance and the Kingdom of God ( see my column) a group of about 100 evangelical leaders were convened by Bread for the World and spent several days listening, talking and intentionally framing some important principles about the intersection of our Christian witness, the relationship of the church’s missional efforts and US foreign assistance. Here are some excerpts of that discussion. Discussion that will surely be revisited and reflected upon this week at the BWA Congress
- Christians in the United States and other northern and western countries are being changed as we listen to voices from the Global South and from multiple social locations in each country affected by interaction with western mission efforts and government policies. In a spirit of humility we must always be open to new perspectives and corrections in our advocacy and service.
- Church leaders have significant educational responsibilities in instructing their communities about the realities of structural injustice, the need for government responses of sufficient scale to address these injustices, and both the possibilities and the limits of government foreign assistance.
- Christians must always live what we advocate. We realize that Western and US Christians are now called to a journey of lifestyle change so that our buying, eating, spending, and investing, and so on all bend toward justice for the world’s poor. Our advocacy has as much credibility as our lives.
- The great growth of short-term mission projects among US Christians poses an educational and missional opportunity in this era. While legitimate criticisms can be offered of the actual benefits in proportion to costs of these mission efforts, with proper education and follow up these mission experiences can be used to expose an entire generation of Christians to the needs of the world’s poor and the complex challenges involved in addressing them well.
- Communication advances now enable the global Church to function more and more as one truly global Church. That church is already involved every day around the world in meeting the needs of the poor. Western Christians must be in ongoing and respectful dialogue and conversation with their Christian brothers and sisters in the Global South. This is important both for Christian community and for shaping and informing our missions and advocacy.
- We agree that Christian activity for and with the poor must remain an ongoing aspect of Christian discipleship no matter what governments do. We agree that even if church-related groups receive government funds to serve the poor we must never become subservient to government, and must be willing at any moment to refuse such funds if conscience requires it. However, we also agree that advocacy related to foreign assistance and other aspects of government policy is an appropriate expression of our Christian discipleship, and that partnerships with government are both possible and necessary under many circumstances.
- There are sound foreign policy reasons rooted in national interest for why our government should give generously to effective foreign assistance programs. These are widely recognized in the United States government and among foreign policy intellectuals. As Christian citizens we are grateful to God that the interests of the state and the interests of the kingdom of God in this case coalesce. We know that this is not always the case, and that as Christians we will need to continue to offer our witness and do our work regardless of what governments and states decide to do. But we can work toward shared ends with groups who do not share our worldview, whenever this is possible.
Would you like to join this discussion? Let us know at email@example.com. Your voice is needed because the worldwide conversation is growing.