5 Challenges for the Illinois Baptist State Association: #2 Giftedness

Sorry that I've kind of dropped the ball on posting on this topic. I had fully expected to have more time than I did during last week's travels. Anyway, let me get right back into it.

What I'm doing here is a series of posts that originate from a message I shared at the Illinois Baptist State Association last month to a number of the missionary leaders.  I'm sharing with you my 5 challenges to IBSA (our state-level association of Southern Baptists) that I believe represent something of what God is saying to us, especially in the wake of Cape Town 2010 -- the 3rd Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization.  You can read challenge one here.  Now let's move on to the second:

2. Illinois Baptist State Association must create (in our individual minds, hearts and in our corporate ministry structures - including reporting systems, evaluation methods and more) new categorizations of value that transcend the smallness of finances, formal education, technology, and "measurable" results.

When I was at Cape Town 2010, I had the privilege of eating dinner one night with Ruth Ndaruhutse of Rwanda. Here's the story:

In the midst of my first full day at CT2010, I was wandering around the convention center looking for a place to eat my dinner. To be completely honest, it felt a bit like high school. I—young, relatively unknown, naturally shy, and easily intimidated—scanned a giant ballroom packed with Lausanne delegates. My eyes landed on a half-full table of Nigerians and one Rwandan, Ruth Ndaruhutse. I timidly took one of the empty seats at the table as Ruth was getting ready to leave. We exchanged a few pleasantries and then, to my delight, she settled back into her chair. Ruth sighed in a kind, motherly sort of way and began to tell me her story.
Ruth Ndaruhutse is Rwanda’s national coordinator for the Pan-African Christian Women Alliance. In the capital city of Kigali, she spends her days ministering to women who have been victimized in various ways by the genocidal massacre of 1994. She and her team take care of widows, orphans, rape victims, and others and teach skills that empower them to earn a living. She teaches them about forgiveness and reconciliation. She teaches them about Christ. In other words, she incarnates the Savior in a truly remarkable way.
Over dinner, Ruth took her time with me. Imparting to me what I’m certain was only a shred of her spiritual giftedness. She had persevered right on through the unspeakable tragedies of her country. She told me about the losses and the pain—unimaginable stories or cruelty and evil. I had to ask, ‘How, sister? How do you do it? How do you forgive?’ She replied with profound simplicity, ‘You cannot grieve for 15 years. You cannot stay in the past. You have to hope for the future —so, it’s like that. It’s like that.’
Ruth and so many others have helped me to see that one of the great lessons of Lausanne III is that, as taught in Ephesians, the Spirit of God has distributed the gifts of grace to each Christian in the whole Body of Christ (Eph. 4:7). Consequently, one of the keys to the pursuit of equilibrium in the Church is to recognize this global giftedness and our tremendous individual need of it. This requires the creation in our minds and hearts of new categorizations of value that transcend the smallness of finances, formal education, and technology. Fung challenged Christians to:
Think beyond just money terms. God’s resources are more than money. In the global family, as the body of Jesus Christ, many of us will bring different gifts. Some will bring and model faithfulness in the context of suffering; and some will model perseverance in the context of poverty and injustice; and some will model godly leadership in their context; and some will model critical theological and missiological reflection beyond the Western paradigm; and some will bring years of experience of commending the Lord Jesus Christ in the context of another world religion. And all of us will contribute together and we will bring a fuller understanding of what it means to be the whole Church bringing the whole Gospel to the whole world.[i]
The Cape Town Commitment states:
We urgently seek a new global partnership rooted in profound mutual love, mutual submission, and dramatic economic sharing without paternalism or unhealthy dependency within the Body of Christ across all continents. And we seek this not only as a demonstration of our unity in the gospel, but also for the sake of the name of Christ and the mission of God in all the world.[ii]
So this is the view of global equilibrium in the Church from the perspective of CT2010. It is a view that recognizes both the corporate richness of the body of Jesus Christ and the poverty of isolation. In it, there is no room for the participation in God’s mission of a fragmented and fighting Church—‘a divided Church has no message for a divided world’.[iii] We must humble ourselves to the reality of giftedness in Christian brothers and sisters that we did not expect to be rich by developing a more biblical understanding of what is valuable and by acknowledging our own personal poverty. And we must do this all for the sake of the gospel and Christ, our only center.

In IBSA, we must find practical ways to recognize, value, and utilize the diversity of gifts that exist throughout the body of Jesus Christ.  IBSA must recognize that we need people like Ruth. We must know that we are rich when she comes to the table and poor when she does not.

How do our current attitudes and structures in IBSA blind us to certain kinds of giftedness?  What do our current structures say about what we value? How can we change so as to not be cut off from so much of God's richness?

[i] Fung, ‘Partnership’.
[ii] The Lausanne Movement, ‘The Cape Town Commitment’.
[iii] The Lausanne Movement, ‘The Cape Town Commitment’.

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