VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 1/29/14)—How is God calling American Baptist International Ministries (IM) into the future of global mission? This was the central question at a meeting of IM Directors, staff, missionaries and supporters last week in Valley Forge. It is the key question of the newly-initiated planning process: Responding to the Call: Discerning God’s Direction for a Third Century of Mission.
“The purpose of the Responding to the Call process is to discern and articulate a fresh vision of how IM will serve the mission of Jesus Christ in 2015-2020,” commented Stan Slade, IM associate executive director, Program, who is serving as Process Leader for this initiative.
“I am especially moved by this combined effort of board and staff. The key feature of Responding to the Call is the process of listening to our partners,” said Dr. Reginald Mills, IM Board of Directors president. “We have partners in American Baptist regions, in our churches and institutions, in host countries, in mission work groups and discovery teams, in women’s circles, in the lives of our pastors, our missionaries and home staff.”
“We are all co-workers on mission for Christ,” Mills continued. “We want to hear the voices of our partners. We want to know how they see God at work in the world today. So we have designed a means to listen to what God’s people are saying and experiencing and yearning. Our firm expectation is to hear the voice of God through the body of Christ in the context of Scripture and an ever-changing world. Out of this, we will follow the Spirit’s leading into the future God has prepared.”
Jesus’ command to make disciples of all peoples kindled a fire in the hearts of Ann and Adoniram Judson 200 years ago. The Judsons, among the first missionaries to be commissioned and sent from the U.S., arrived in Burma (now known as Myanmar) in 1813.
Over time, God used the partnering work of missionaries and evangelists to bring thousands to Christ in Myanmar. This extraordinary pioneering work led Baptists in the United States to come together as a national movement 200 years ago and form the mission organization now known as American Baptist International Ministries. For two centuries, God has graciously sustained IM and used it as an instrument to advance the mission of Jesus Christ. Today we stand on the threshold of a third century of participation in that mission.
“The best way to honor what God has already done is to commit ourselves to join in what God will do next,” summarized Reid Trulson, IM executive director. “So, as we celebrate God’s faithfulness in the past, we seek a fresh word from the Lord for the future. We want to hear, as the Apostle John puts it, ‘what the Spirit is saying to the churches.’ (Revelation 2:7).”
Authorized by the IM Board of Directors in September of 2013, the process will reach beyond IM’s directors and personnel to seek counsel from American Baptist church members, pastors and leaders, as well as partners around the world. The IM Board believes that God calls to IM not in isolation, but together with those with whom IM is privileged to share the mission of Jesus Christ, both around the world and across the United States and Puerto Rico.
“As we enter into IM’s third century of mission, we believe the Spirit of God will call IM into God’s future as we listen to the voices of fellow servants of Christ with whom we share this present moment,” commented Mills.
Karen Smith, IM missionary and consultant to the New Life Center Foundation in Chiang Mai, Thailand, will lend her organizational expertise to this initiative, serving as Lead Facilitator.
IM will engage in spiritual discernment conversations with partners in mission throughout the United States and Puerto Rico and around the world during 2014 and early 2015. The fruit of these conversations will be studied, prayed over and reflected upon by a Discernment Team. The Discernment Team will embody in its membership the wide range of voices to which IM is listening and will bring that diversity to bear on the discernment and articulation of a fresh vision for the work of IM from 2015 to 2020. That statement will be acted upon by IM’s Board of Directors in June 2015.
In 1998-1999, IM used a similar discernment process to develop the vision known as Go Global. Originally framed as a vision for ten years, Go Global was adapted twice to respond to the tumultuous experiences of 2000-2010. The core principles of Go Global, however, have continued to be an effective guide for IM’s work to this day.
The flexibility and enduring value of the results obtained through the Go Global effort have underscored the value of careful listening. For that reason, IM is dedicating significant time and energy to the Responding to the Call discernment process.
The results sought through this process include: a shared statement of vision, priorities, goals and an operational plan for the work of IM for 2015-2020; deepened mission relationships throughout the entire partnership network in which God has placed IM for the sake of Christ’s mission; and the release of fresh energies into the transforming work of Jesus Christ in our world.
American Baptist International Ministries is celebrating 200 years of ministry in 2014. Organized in 1814 as the first Baptist international mission agency in America, it began its pioneer mission work in Burma and today works in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas serving more than 1,800 long-term and short-term missionaries. Its central mission is to help people come to faith in Jesus, grow in their relationship with God, and change their worlds through the power of the Spirit. It works with respected partners in over 70 countries in ministries that meet human need.
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.