Sample student and leader guides are now available for an online, eight-lesson Bible study to support next year's New Baptist Covenant Celebration in Atlanta. The study is offered free of charge by the Baptist Center for Ethics in partnership with other organizations.
David Goatley of the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention, one of the lesson writers, pictured at January's announcement of the 2008 New Baptist Covenant Celebration.
"The Agenda: 8 Lessons from Luke 4" enlists writers from diverse backgrounds in terms of gender, race, ethnicity and nationality to examine the Bible chapter that includes the foundational text for the Jan. 30-Feb. 1 gathering to unite Baptists from North America around Jesus' moral agenda as announced in his first sermon recorded in Scripture to his hometown synagogue in Nazareth.
In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus said: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
In the introduction to "The Agenda," Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, said the study takes a "material" reading of the text, in contrast to other studies that tend to spiritualize or otherwise water down the message of justice for the poor and oppressed.
"Our hope is that Baptists across North America will use these lessons in preparing their hearts, minds and hands to pursue Jesus' mission statement," Parham said. "We hope that we will be hearers and doers of the word (Jas 1:22), that our minds might be transformed (Rom 12:2) and that we might become known as those who do good for and with others (Mt 7:12)."
"As goodwill Baptists throughout North America anticipate the New Baptist Covenant gathering next year, I pray that this study might be used by the Holy Spirit to help them prepare, with humility, courage and divine guidance, to engage in today's work for shalom," Carol Anne Janzen, lecturer in Christian Education at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, told EthicsDaily.com.
Janzen's lesson on Luke 4:23-24 introduces Silas Tertius Rand, a 19th century Baptist missionary among the indigenous Micmac (now spelled Mi'kmaq) people in Maritime Canada.
While honored as a missionary, Janzen says, Rand is often overlooked for attitudes that were ahead of his time, like overcoming racial prejudices to view all people as created in God's image and opposing unjust and unmerciful treatment of people of color.
Janzen said contemporary Baptists ignore voices of ancient prophets like Nathan, Micah, Amos and Jesus and more recent voices like Thomas Helwys, Walter Rauschenbusch and Martin Luther King Jr. at their own peril.
Aidsand Wright-Riggins, executive director of National Ministries of American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., places Jesus' quotation in Luke 4:19 of Isaiah's proclamation of the "year of the Lord's favor" in the prophetic concept of Jubilee, a term dealing with economic justice. A Baptist commitment to Jubilee in the 21st century, he says, means at the least commitment to making a difference for children living in poverty, ending discrimination, advocating a living wage for everyone and challenging excessive compensation of corporate CEOs.
"While standing in the gap and being a repairer of the breach is not the most comfortable place to do ministry, it is the place where we most consistently experience the power and presence of Jesus," Wright-Riggins told EthicsDaily.com.
"The Luke 4 Bible study project and the New Baptist Covenant provide us an opportunity to see Jesus in the faces of those whom we previously viewed with the hermeneutic of suspicion," he said. "Baptists are turning towards each other rather than on each other. As a result, our congregations, communities and culture are being transformed by the commitments we are making to each other and to the world for which Christ died and lives."
William Epps, senior pastor of Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles and editor in chief of National Baptist Voice, magazine of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., told EthicsDaily.com, "I welcome the opportunity to be a part of believers in Christ who seek to fulfill the prayer that Jesus prayed on their behalf, that they become one with each other as the Father and Son are one with each other."
He said, "With particularity of purpose and singularity of spirit we can witness to the reconciling, redeeming and transforming presence of the Lord to a world that desperately needs mending."
In his lesson on Jesus' community as described in Luke 4:16-17, Epps remarked: "We have an opportunity to come together as Baptists to reclaim the best of our tradition, calling for peace, justice and freedom from oppression. Now is the time for a witness in the world that reflects the harmony and unity Christ prayed for believers to manifest in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."
Other lesson writers for student guides are:
--Daniel Carro, Latino ministries ambassador for the Baptist General Association of Virginia, and Dina Carro, a member of the Baptist World Alliance study and research committee.
--David Goatley, executive secretary-treasurer of the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention.
--Gilberto Gutierrez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista in Horeb, Mexico, and president of the National Baptist Convention of Mexico.
--Don Sewell, liaison to worldwide Baptist bodies with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
--Heather Entrekin, senior pastor of Prairie Baptist Church in Prairie Village, Kan. (ABC/USA).
Sponsors enlisted so far include Christian Mission Concerns; American Baptist Churches, U.S.A; Baptist General Association of Virginia; Baptist General Convention of Texas; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship; North American Baptist Fellowship; School of Religion at Belmont University; Lott Cary Foreign Mission Convention; Cecil B. Day Foundation; Baptist General Convention of Missouri; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Alabama; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida; District of Columbia Baptist Convention; Buckner International; Faith Baptist Church, Georgetown, Ky.; First Baptist Church, Columbia, Mo.; First Baptist Church, Memphis, Tenn.; Highland Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky.; Pulaski Heights Baptist Church, Little Rock, Ark.; Tennessee Cooperative Baptist Fellowship; and Zebulon Baptist Church, Raleigh, N.C.
The full study is due for release later this month. Sample lessons are being released now to allow churches time to review the material and determine when to schedule it for study in anticipation of the New Baptist Covenant Celebration in late January/early February 2008.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
Click here for more information and to download sample student and leader guides.