Michael Okwakol speaks following a screening of EthicsDaily.com's faith-and-prisons documentary, "Through the Door," at the BWA's 2015 World Congress in Durban, South Africa. (Photo: Cliff Vaughn)
I first heard of the Baptist World Alliance when I joined the staff of the Baptist Union of Uganda as travelling secretary in 1984.
Ten years later, while serving as general secretary of the Baptist Union of Uganda, I got to meet some of the officials of the BWA when I attended the All Africa Baptist Fellowship (AABF) meeting in Ivory Coast.
It was at that meeting when I stood to contribute to the discussion that was on the floor, that Denton Lotz, then general secretary of the BWA, took note of me. From then on, I received invitations and support to attend subsequent meetings of the general council.
Since then, I have endeavored to attend as many of the BWA meetings and have engaged in various committees and commissions of the BWA as much as I possibly can because there are lots of benefits.
What are the benefits?
The first and the greatest benefit is sharing experiences and expertise. Because those who attend the meetings come from various contexts, everybody has a unique experience and expertise to share. There is also the sharing of various gifts and giftedness.
The other benefit related to sharing is the learning that takes place because of the various ideas and practices in the ministry in the context of where the meeting is held.
All those who attend the BWA meetings are often very resourceful persons who come with lessons learned in life and in ministry.
Because of this, one will always learn something new or some way that is new and helpful for ministry in their context.
Another benefit is the cultural, political and religious exposure one gets visiting another country for the BWA gatherings.
BWA meetings expose one to all levels of leaders from lay to professional to clergy. The level of engagement is always by presentations of papers. Some of the papers are philosophical and some are practical.
The level of engagement challenges one to be academically capable to engage. I, for one, was challenged to go back to school to study more in order to contribute more.
After working in the same environment with the same people for months, it is refreshing to be able to meet brothers and sisters from other parts of the world.
Fellowship is another benefit of attending BWA meetings. It is always a great experience to know that we are all the same despite where we come from.
The fact that everybody's nametag does not carry titles allows people to fellowship with one another without feelings of inferiority or superiority.
It has been said that leadership can be lonely or it can be lonely at the top. This is another benefit BWA meetings offer: the opportunity to make ministry friends for encouragement and follow-up. This often happens around tea breaks and around lunch or dinner tables.
Various connections for ministry opportunity also come out of these times, and ministry partnerships have developed out of these connections.
BWA meetings are also times to identify with Baptists from around the world and to be identified by Baptists around the world. These meetings help expose one with his or her resourcefulness to others and vice versa.
This helps BWA leaders with placing persons to BWA committees and commissions and with identification of leaders for current BWA ministry needs and identifying the emerging leaders.
It is said that the world is run by tired people. Sometimes BWA meetings are where one can find time to rest once he or she has participated in their assigned meetings.
Churches need to engage with the BWA for both exposure to various ministries of the BWA and exposure of their leaders to other Baptist leaders around the world so that iron will sharpen iron.
Observing BWA Day on Feb. 4-5 this year is an excellent way to introduce your congregation to the Baptist World Alliance and to encourage participation in the annual gatherings.
Michael Okwakol is senior pastor of Agape Baptist Church in Kampala, Uganda, and past president of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship (AABF). He is serving currently as a Baptist World Alliance vice president.
Editor's note: This article is part of a series of articles about the Baptist World Alliance, informing churches about the BWA and encouraging participation in the annual BWA Day observance to be held on Feb. 4-5 in 2017.
The previous articles in this series are:
How the BWA Enriches My Ministry, Mission Partnerships
How the BWA Opened My Eyes to Global Baptists
How The BWA's Global Family Widened My View