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Ten Challenges for the Baptist World Alliance in the New Century

1. Unity–Many Baptist conventions worldwide are experiencing disharmony, because of conflict over Christian doctrine and ethics, or over differing views on types of worship or the charismatic movement.

It is for that reason that we must continually re-examine our life and thought in the light of biblical faith. We need to continually stress a Christian worldview. Separation may come because of sin and lack of biblical faithfulness, but in the Baptist World Alliance it is together in Christ that we will continue to strive in this new century for a biblical worldview.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
2. Emerging leaders–Now is the time for a new generation of young Baptists to lead our Baptist conventions and unions worldwide. Let’s work on encouraging young seminarians and Baptist leaders to take up the mantle of leadership. The BWA is going through a transition in leadership, and we are confident that God has already prepared leaders for this new century.
 
3. Theological education for the masses–Traditionally Baptists prided themselves on Bible study through church Sunday school classes, etc. Today, however, Christian worship has become more “religion as entertainment.”
 
The church needs to not only be good obstetricians, bringing people into the churches. We must also be good pediatricians, growing our people to the maturity and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
 
4. A new paradigm in mission–We are now entering a new paradigm of the internationalization of the Christian mission. The distinction of sending and receiving churches is over. Now every nation is a mission field and every nation a sending agency.
 
The growth of the church has now moved to the Southern hemisphere. This demands a new missiology and a sharing of resources; an integration of two-thirds world leaders in the committees that make decisions concerning mission in their countries.
 
5. Personal and social ethics–The Bible is not only concerned about our talk, but also about our walk. Unfortunately, there is a divide within the church today between those who emphasize personal ethics and those who emphasize social ethics. Both personal and social restrictions are part of the biblical worldview and a call for holiness in our private and public living.
 
The prophetic witness of the Old Testament and the ethics of Jesus and the New Testament belong together. We must not divide ethical behavior into personal and social. Just as we are opposed to adultery, we should also be opposed to poverty.
 
6. Religious freedom–Most countries of the world would declare that they grant religious freedom. However, with “the clash of civilizations” that followed the fall of communism we see more and more the denial of religious freedom worldwide.
 
The rise of religious nationalism which promotes one religion over the other is increasing. The Baptist solution for the conflict between religions and the state is the separation of church and state. The BWA will continue to be vigilant in defending religious freedom for all peoples.
 
7. Women’s role in the church–Within the BWA are many Baptist conventions/unions that ordain women. There are those who want the BWA to issue a directive either in support of or denial of the ordination of women.
 
For Baptists ordination has always been a local autonomy issue. There are even some conventions/unions that do not have a tradition of ordination.
 
The question of ordination has hindered the church from recognizing the gifts that God has given to all his children. Paul reminds the church that in Christ there is neither slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, male nor female. What counts is exercising the gift that God has given to each believer in Jesus Christ.
 
8. Secularism, post-modernism, New Age, sectarianism–Since the first century Christianity has had a conflict with the culture in which it has lived. New and pagan philosophies are today as great a threat to the Christian faith as those of the first century.
 
Holding our heads in the sand will only hurt the faith, but encouraging Baptist scholars to confront the ideologies and philosophies of this day will give more opportunity for converting atheistic and agnostic philosophies to a new understanding of God in Christ. May God raise up new scholars–a new <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />St. Augustine, a new Luther, or Calvin or William Carey–to make the gospel witness real and credible.
 
9. The resurgence of world religions–Like it or not, we live in a multi-cultural and multi-religious world. In most continents culture and religion are the same. Thus we have the Islamic cultures of the Middle East, the Buddhist cultures of Asia and the Hindu culture of India.
 
Because Western European and North American governments are mistakenly viewed by these other governments as “Christian” the foreign policy of European and North American countries often become a great hindrance to the evangelization and proclamation of the whole gospel.
 
Thus the local churches in the two-thirds world often suffer persecution because of the misguided foreign policies of the West. For this reason the church in the two-thirds world must develop its own indigenous theology that separates the gospel from a Western orientation.
 
10. The Kingdom of God–The BWA’s program of relief and development, Baptist World Aid, is part of the holistic gospel, which encourages every BWA member body to be Christ’s hands and feet for a suffering and hurting world, such as our extensive programs following the tsunami in Asia have been. 
 
We must not theologize Jesus’ view of the gospel but allow Jesus Himself to be the definition of the gospel. A Kingdom of God ethic centered on personal salvation and social transformation made possible by Christ should be our constant aim. We must remain in creative tension between the governments of the world and the prophetic power of the gospel; to change both lives and society.
 
Denton Lotzis general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance. This column is abridged from a longer open letter to Baptists worldwide.