December 16, 2013

Shaping the Future of the Church

(Originally posted December 7, 2013, from Myanmar)
            Central’s mission has always related to the church in its global form.  In these recent years, the primary form of this engagement has been our collaboration with Myanmar Institute of Theology.  Together we are seeking to equip gifted scholar-practitioners who can shape the future of the church.  These Doctor of Ministry students, most already leaders, are ingredient to the flourishing of Baptists in Myanmar.
            The Myanmar Baptist Convention employs some of them.  Others serve as principals or instructors in the many Bible colleges within their respective states.  Still others are pastors and regional leaders for their particular conventions.  Few have only one job!
            Yesterday I encountered more doctoral students from CBTS/MIT.  We always take many pictures when together, attempting perhaps to document what seems to be such an improbable faith venture in yoking our schools together for this degree program.  We are grateful for God’s providence in allowing this work to go forward with the support of the Luce Foundation and the blessing of our accrediting bodies.
            It is hard to describe the sheer magnitude of this celebratory event.  The New Testament often speaks of “the crowds” that hindered Jesus’ movement.  I imagine our experience is of similar biblical proportion.  Every aisle in the building is filled with extra chairs, and persons are sitting on the floor or standing on the perimeter.  Outside, the crowds press toward the building in order to hear the varied presentations.  Caring for the needs of the many assembled is daunting.
            Formal greetings are a part of the program, and I was able to offer Central’s yesterday morning.  (I even stayed within my allotted time—a rarity at this event!) It was a privilege to speak of our work with MIT as well as the good work with the Judson communities, which provides ministry preparation to resettled refugees at the certificate level.  In a sense, they have entrusted members of their family to ABC churches and to us.  The need for leadership development for this group is growing, and soon more students will enter regular Master of Divinity degrees to equip them to serve as pastors in this immigrant community.
            As the world mourns the death of Nelson Mandela, we give thanks for his witness for freedom won through peaceful means.  In Myanmar, Baptists are finding ways to work for human rights and human dignity in an equally challenging context, and they draw inspiration from his life.  They are also grateful to feel less isolated in their faith and greater religious liberty as the political landscape begins to shift. 
            Myanmar Baptists invited the larger Baptist world to come to the Judson bicentenary, and come we did!  Our presence seems to encourage their perseverance in shaping the future of the church.  May it be so.

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