As one entered our seminary chapel, you passed by a variety of things: a wooden sign saying “Quiet please—chapel in progress”, a little guestbook register that had been in service since Moses was young, a wooden stand with the day’s bulletin available, a place to store book bags, coffee mugs (truly a tool for classroom learning) and other items in hand, and a small table with usually a few flowers and a little wooden cross.
It took most chapel attendees about five seconds to walk past through the entranceway. Habit made this hallway overly familiar, needing no great reason to pause and look around. One day, I did take my time entering the chapel, and I noticed that there was a small note on the cross itself. Written in careful small letters, the note read, “This cross is fashioned from wood taken from a renovation of William Carey’s home.”
Unless you slept through seminary courses in church history, world mission class, or even Baptist history 101 (and many did get drowsy in one or all three), you would recognize the name of William Carey, considered to be the “father” of the modern mission movement. William Carey was a British Baptist living in a time when “missions” was not a concern for Baptists. Indeed, the theological view of many British Baptists of the late 18th century was that God did not need believers to spread the Gospel. Those who would believe would believe if God wanted them to do so.
A crash course in early Baptist beliefs would be helpful to explain this, but the fact that this notion sounds odd and pretty bizarre to your ears means that William Carey’s appeal for Baptists to go forth with the gospel around the world worked. The notion of Baptists being mission-minded is just as deeply engrained in our Baptist spiritual DNA as our love for gallons, of water to baptize believers and the passion for a good potluck dinner.
Today we begin our month of offerings to support the World Mission Offering, benefiting the work of American Baptists through the Board of International Ministries. It is our way to make certain that our mission work continues a proud tradition stretching back to the era of persons like William Carey and Adnoiram Judson. American Baptists celebrate many good ministries around the world, and it is our responsibility and calling as churches and American Baptists to support our missionaries and mission.
In my mind’s eye and with a good belief in the New Testament notion of the communion of saints above cheering us on, William Carey leans over the side of the heavens above, and says, “Go, American Baptists, go!"
To learn more, visit www.internationalministries.org. Materials about our World Mission Offering are already at our congregations via a mailing earlier this fall. Ensure you offer a weekly "Moment for Mission" highlighting the critical work of our International Ministries missionaries and partnerships.
Closer to home, I encourage you to support regional mission in New York State, remind your congregations to ensure participation in the ABCNYS 2013 Region Offering to help us finish our own ministry and mission year strong. To learn more about the Region Offering, please contact Dr. Kelsey or myself.