More than 4,000 Baptists from over 140 countries gathered virtually July 7–10 for the Baptist World Alliance’s 22nd Baptist World Congress.
In the opening celebration, BWA General Secretary Elijah Brown called the gathering the “most globally diverse gathering of Baptists in the 115-year history of the BWA,” and “perhaps the most globally diverse gathering of Baptists in the 400-year history [of Baptists] as a movement.”
Brown said in the past 10 years, the BWA family has grown 29% worldwide, led by expansion in the Asia Pacific region (20%), the Caribbean (48%) and Africa (134%) despite slight declines in Europe (3%), the Middle East (3%) and North America (6%).
“BWA Baptists are experiencing the greatest global growth in our history,” Brown said. “We belong together because we belong to Jesus Christ.”
The conference featured worship, prayer, fellowship and Bible study in multiple languages focused around the theme “Together.” Each day focused on a different characteristic: diversity, witness, justice and hope.
Among the featured speakers was Robert Smith Jr., professor of preaching at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.
Speaking on Jeremiah 29 and the theme “Together in Hope,” Smith noted that Jeremiah’s message was unpopular with his audience, but the prophet offered a long-term message of hope. The promise of God to His people was threatened time and time again, Smith said, but God always brought them out.
“God will bury His workers, but He will never bury His work,” Smith said.
Jeremiah urged the older generation to continue to work and strive to prepare the next generation.
“There is this idea of long-term interests,” Smith shared. “You must continue to work and strive so that you pass on to them (young people) certain traits and attributes so that when they move on, they will be able to carry on the work.”
BWA presented 3D Church of Estonia with the inaugural BWA Kowloon International Baptist Church Evangelism Award, a recognition designed to encourage and recognize congregations committed to innovative, biblically based evangelism.
3D Church was founded in 2010 by college students and young adults who desired to reach their peers with the gospel. The church began in a movie theater in Tartu and has expanded to other cities, becoming Estonia’s first multi-site church. The church is a member of the Union of Free Evangelical and Baptist Churches of Estonia.
In announcing the award, James “Butch” Tanner, senior pastor of KIBC, said, “Through their combination of gospel-centered outreach and intentional discipleship, the 3D Church is impacting lives for eternity. We honor 3D Church as the first recipient of the BWA Kowloon International Baptist Church Evangelism Award for its strong and effective witness and for its commitment to building Christ’s kingdom.”
In accepting the award, Jakob Remmel, pastor of 3D Church, said, “I think this award represents God’s reminder that He still moves in this faithless Europe, which is in some ways just sleeping. At the same time, I think for our church it reminds us that what we are witnessing with our own hearts is just not normal — it’s something miraculous that God is doing.”
The 2020 Congress Quinquennial Human Rights Award was presented to Raúl Scialabba, a defender of religious freedom in Argentina and throughout Latin America.
Two meetings — the Global Conference of Baptist Women and Together with the Persecuted Religious Freedom Summit — were held prior to the BWA gathering.
To watch videos of this year’s Baptist World Congress, visit youtube.com/baptistworldalliance.