June 29, 2009

According to your means

            Anybody who ever aspired to “lift an offering” should study Paul’s stewardship sermon in 2 Corinthians 8:7-15. He compliments; he urges friendly competition with other givers; he offers a Christological foundation(“though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that his poverty you might become rich”); he reminds them of the needs of the saints in Jerusalem; and, then he concludes with a stirring personal appeal. He has been working for over a year on this collection that not only would alleviate suffering, but would galvanize cooperation among churches and deepen discipleship. Abundance comes from God and should be shared with those who lack, according to your means.

            Baptists are celebrating our 400th anniversary this year, and many churches and historical societies and scholarly gatherings are reviewing our history. At one such gathering I was asked what future I see for the Baptist movement. I suggested that old forms are dying.  A monolithic form of Baptist identity leads to pride, while following the path of downward mobility with Christ leads to humility useful for God’s purposes. New expressions of ecclesial Baptists are leaner, less encumbered with bureaucratic structures, and much more nimble. No longer privileged with wealth and culturally embedded identity, these apostolate Baptists understand mission differently.  Living into the realities of post-Christendom and post-colonial relations with the larger global church, Baptists are finding ways to collaborate in ministry with varied others.

            Central is forging a partnership with Myanmar Institute of Theology in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma). Baptists have been in that land since the Judsons traveled there in 1813; however, since 1966, there have been only indigenous Baptists as all the missionaries were expelled. We are discovering that each institution has resources that the other needs; each knows a form of abundance that comes from “the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Together we trust the Apostle’s words: “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little” (v. 15). God is sowing our lives together that we might excel in everything—according to our means in Christ.

                        Molly T. Marshall

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