Baptists from more than 40 nations began the Baptist World Alliance annual gathering with a celebration of their common mission as a people called, sent and empowered by God.
“We belong together because we belong to Jesus Christ,” BWA General Secretary Elijah Brown told a crowd of worshippers who filled the sanctuary of Stavanger’s Tjensvoll Church and spilled into an overflow room.
‘Here am I. Send me’
The worship leaders for the evening taught the crowd a Norwegian song, “Jesus, her er jeg, send meg”—“Jesus, here am I, send me.”
BWA First Vice President Karl Johnson, who served two decades as general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, reflected on the matter of being “sent” by God. He reflected on Jesus’ word to his disciples after his Resurrection: “As the Father has sent me, so send I you” (John 20:21).
“The sender is critical to the mission,” Johnson said. “This mission is God-initiated. The sender adorns the mission with credibility … with authenticity.”
The mission to which Christ calls his followers is “the missio Dei — the mission of God,” he emphasized.
Furthermore, the mission to which Jesus’ disciples are called is “motivated by love,” Johnson said.
“If it’s not about love, it’s not about God,” he said.
It is the kind of love that is “unafraid to confront systemic injustice … with the liberating power of love,” he added.
A Spirit-directed, Spirit-empowered mission
When Jesus spoke His call to his disciples — who had been “huddled together in fear and hopelessness,” Johnson noted— he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
“The mission is Spirit-directed,” Johnson said. “God never sends us where God doesn’t enable us and where God doesn’t empower us.
“Any mission without the Holy Spirit is mission impossible,” he said.
But a mission empowered by the Holy Spirit is capable to “confront the death-dealing and life-stealing power of the world” with the overcoming power of the gospel, he said.
The worship service ended with a responsive prayer of renewed dedication that concluded: “Jesus Christ is the hope of the world. He is the center around which our lives revolve. He is the Sovereign Presence in the Kingdom in which we live and work. His truth is eternal, His love unchanging, His grace sufficient. To Him we commit our lives totally, joyfully, unreservedly.”