The Lesson of the ELN

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In this final post on mentoring, Blake Killingsworth of Dallas Baptist University shares some his thoughts on the subject. Blake is part of the Baptist World Alliance Emerging Leaders Network, which seeks to encouraged and develop leadership skills among younger Baptists.

This week, I have the privilege of spending time with younger men and women that will lead the global Baptist family in the years to come.

These individuals compromise what is known as the Emerging Leaders Network of the Baptist World Alliance, a notion advanced by David Coffey.

Coffey is an intentional successor.  In every area of his leadership, he has sought to locate and train those who would succeed him. While head of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the European Baptist Federation, Coffey worked with others to locate the future generation of Baptist leaders in these regions. Once located, he sought to bring them into the conversation and provide them a forum to learn the structure of the groups and begin to exercise their gifts within these groups.

A common picture Coffey paints for his successor mentality is that of the caretaker of a field. The owner provides the field for the caretaker, and the caretaker, in turn, maintains an interesting balance between present and future concerns. For the present, the caretaker must ensure that the land is tended, the crops are grown, or the sheep are fed. For the future, the caretaker must look to the day when the job of caring is taken over by another. No caretaker who genuinely loves the land, and also the owner of the land, believes that the land will disappear once the caretaker leaves. Instead, the caretaker tries to do his or her best job so that when he or she leaves, there is something good to hand over to the next caretaker.

In Biblical terms, this is the Paul-Timothy-Others-Others model that we find in 2 Timothy 2:2 – “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Paul, being the first generation, taught Timothy, the second generation, whose job it was next to teach other men, or the third generation, so that those individuals would be able to teach a fourth generation of men, and so on and so forth. 

Coffey visited the campus of Dallas Baptist University shortly after he was elected BWA president. On campus, he spoke about his vision to implement an organization within the BWA similar to the ones that he begun in Europe. As he spoke, I became captivated by the idea, in part because of his passion for the raising up of younger leaders, but also because of the great need that I saw at the time for a similar program to take place within the BGCT.

Although some things have changed in the past couple of years, any typical annual meeting of the BGCT is filled with people whose hair is gray or gone.  hese are the long-time pastors or institutional presidents or missionaries or interested lay individuals, most of whom developed strong friendships during their years at Baylor or Southwestern. It is a good group of people, all of whom have given their life for the Baptist cause and who should be thanked and respected for their work.

But absent from the group are those of a slightly younger complexion.

Touring the Austin Convention Center in 2005, I noticed very few people that looked like I did, and if I did see someone around my age, they probably worked for the Baptist Building. Similar experiences came during the 2006 and 2007 meetings, although a handful more of younger folks have appeared. However, one things has become clear-those under 40 aren’t showing up.

As John hinted in his blog last week, this has much to do with the negative connotations of the term Baptist. However, it also has to do with a sense among these younger Baptists that either those in charge feel that the battle for the heart of the BGCT is still continuing or they do not feel comfortable releasing the reigns of leadership to anyone else.

This is a shame because if the under-40s continue to remain absent, in twenty years, the BGCT, which has such  resources for sharing the Gospel, will die.

So as Coffey described his plans, I saw this as a need also for the BGCT. Working at DBU, part of my job that day was to drive Coffey around from place to place, and in the midst of driving, I mentioned to him my gratitude for his willingness to begin a group and how those our age long for these types of opportunities.

Later that year, he very graciously invited me to be a part of this new network of young Baptists exploring ways to help the BWA.

The ELN met last year for the first time in Accra, Ghana, for the BWA Annual Gathering.  There were around 35 of us, representing various regions, nationalities, and languages and demonstrating the rich variety of Baptist faith and expression. There was no agenda or no great scheme in place. Coffey wanted us to gather to explore the BWA, and to, above all else, get to know one another. 

We began to develop love and genuine relationships with each other.  We shared our struggles in the ministry, our disappointments, our joys, our expectations. We prayed with and for one another. And in the end, we developed a group whose love of Christ bonded each one to the other, regardless of our language, background, ministry, or theological convictions. It was an amazing experience.

In addition to these meetings with one another, Coffey, in his intentional way, partnered each ELN member up with someone who had maintained a long commitment to the BWA. These mentors/mentees met, prayed with one another, and just shared their hearts. In the process, the ELN members knew more about the BWA, and these BWA people knew more about the ELN members.

We have come together again in Prague. Some unfortunately have not been able to make it due to financial or scheduling conflicts, while others have experienced the continuing problems of traveling in a post-9-11 era. In addition, a few who could not join us last year came this year.

However, God has once again brought together a diverse family of Baptist believers, each supporting and loving one another.

David Coffey is to be thanked and honored for being faithful to the vision that God placed on his heart; the BGCT’s own Chris Liebrum is to be thanked for his tireless work in organizing this ELN group of the BWA; and many, many more have done so much to make this experience possible.

But the ELN is really that Paul-Timothy-Others-Others modeled played out in an institutional setting. It is at its core the vision of Jesus as he developed his 12 and sent them forth. It is an intentional successor mentality put into practice, and it is working. In the years to come, members of the ELN will be able to come alongside those who have served longer, and the legacy of the BWA will continue.

Can the same thing happen in Texas?  I would love to find out.

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2 Responses to “The Lesson of the ELN”

  1. Coverage of the Baptist World Alliance | the big daddy weave Says:

    […] (EthicsDaily.com) One U.S. Baptist leader said that it was important for Baptists to respond constructively since some Baptists had made such harmful comments about Islam. Pointing out that Baptists had a rich tradition of living respectfully with others, he offered that Baptists would not compromise their core Christian convictions. The Lessons of the BWA’s Emerging Leaders Network […]

  2. David Troublefield Says:

    From an article about the critical need for Evangelistic Small Groups (emphasis: evangelistic) now among Christians in the U.S. (get the full article from: jon.randles@bgct.org):

    “. . . It’s likely that people reading this article also have read many church growth ‘factoids’ over the years and considered them with a bit of skepticism —and for good reason, as it’s cautioned that 90% of statistics can be made to say anything 50% of the time! Still, listed below are ten recent statements from church growth experts about conditions of the world and the nation to which Baptist General Convention of Texas churches seek to minister evangelistically in the name of Christ. Read the list for the view its gives of Great Commission efforts being made now:

    • One in 10 people in the world is an active Christian (in 6 million Christian churches)
    • 90,000 people become Christians daily worldwide (20,000 in Africa; 15,000 in India)
    • 35% of Korea’s population is Christian (56% of Russia’s and 15% of Indonesian’s)
    • Largest English-speaking mission field in the world: United States of America
    • 100 million Americans are unchurched (in no religious services during last 6 months)
    • American churches on average: need 85 members to win one soul for Jesus Christ
    • Each day, 411 Americans convert to Islam, 872 become Mormons (Buddhism growing)
    • 69% of all SBC congregations were plateaued/declining numerically in 2006 (30,470)
    • 2006: 27,521 of 44,223 SBC congregations reported 0-5 baptisms (274 reported 100+)
    • 11 million Texans are unchurched, but one in 10 Texans is a BGCT Texas Baptist

    “It’s true that the list above doesn’t tell the whole evangelism story in the world today, but the message seems clear anyway that: (1) a great harvest is being reaped outside of the United States because non-Christians in other countries are responding in incredible numbers with repentance toward God and faith in Christ as the good news about Jesus is shared intentionally by missionaries or other believers in relevant and relational ways; (2) similar potential for spiritual awakening exists in the U.S. among its tens of millions who also are unsaved but curious; and, (3) the average American Christian and church functions far less intentionally, relationally, and relevantly in evangelism than do believers living for the Lord Jesus elsewhere in the world. The info above suggests, too, that future generations of lost Americans will be won by some gospel even if that “good news” has nothing at all to do with Jesus Christ—and that prospect simply isn’t acceptable to any serious follower of Him.

    “Why Evangelistic Small Groups: For winning neighbors in the United States by the millions to Jesus as Savior, can the thousands of small groups which America’s Christian congregations sponsor weekly and want increasingly be the answer? After all, it’s always insisted by proponents of them that those groups’ purposes include gospel-sharing activities. This writer is convinced that God has packed small groups meeting in His name with huge potential for advancing His kingdom in this nation—but also that, without changes to the priorities and practices of almost all existing American church small groups and the plans for coming ones, the spiritual condition of the U.S. will remain as unaffected by them as it is today. See why below . . .

    “A 2006 study by LifeWay Research confirms leaders of America’s evangelical Protestant churches say that evangelism, fellowship, Bible study, worship, ministry, and disciple-making are the focus whether those congregations sponsor small groups or traditional Sunday School classes. However, the same research indicates that, when it comes to the New Testament function of evangelism, those groups and classes are almost “all hat and no cattle” as relatively few evangelical Protestant congregations in the U.S. give evangelism done via their small groups or Sunday School classes a level of priority anywhere close to that given to the functions of Bible study or fellowship (Bible study is the top priority of their groups: 64% of Sunday School churches and 41% of small group churches; outreach/evangelism is the top priority: 5% of Sunday School churches and 6% of small group churches). Contrast that finding with previous Southern Baptist Convention efforts, for example, which sought much more balance between small group Bible study and evangelism (Million More in ’54; Church Growth Spiral ministry model of Andy Anderson; Arthur Flake’s ‘Know the possibilities . . . Go after the people’) and the tremendous results of doing so, and it isn’t hard to understand why the baptism totals of evangelical Protestant bodies such as the SBC and its affiliating state conventions trend downward over the last ten years or longer . . .”

    David Troublefield
    Minister of Education
    Lamar Baptist Church
    Wichita Falls, TX
    dgtroublefield@sbcglobal.net

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