Baptist World Alliance
Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Phone: +1 703 790 8980
Fax: +1 703 893 5160      

November 16, 2011

For Immediate Release

A call to justice and deeds of mercy

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Lagos (BWA)--Baptists should engage in deeds of mercy and address justice issues and not merely verbally proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, said Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam and Emmet Dunn, director of the BWA Youth Department.


Both Callam and Dunn led discussions at the Bread of Life Conference (BOL) in Lagos, Nigeria, on November 15. BOL is an international evangelism training program sponsored by the BWA. The meetings in Lagos are specially geared to Baptist leaders and delegates from Francophone Africa.


Callam, in referring to Jesus' self-designation as the Bread of Life, said that while the preaching of the Word is important, Baptists should give heed to the "proclamation of the Gospel in life through deeds of mercy and "the kinds of things we do in our churches."


Baptists, he said, should commit themselves to justice in society, seeking to create an "alternative society, establishing communities that make a difference where they live."


Dunn implored Baptist Christians to make a difference in the lives of their communities and countries. He noted that 95 percent of the people of the Central African country of Rwanda regard themselves as Christians, yet the country descended into genocidal chaos in 1994 when more than 800,000 people were killed in a matter of weeks.


Dunn also made reference to his native country of Liberia in West Africa, whose population is more than 85 percent Christian, yet the country underwent decades of civil war that cost thousands of lives, devastated families, and destroyed countless properties.


"Evangelism must be about the truth of the gospel and not just about planting churches and increasing the numbers of regular Sunday worshippers," Dunn challenged the audience. "The truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ must have an impact on the lives of those who respond to the Great Commission. It must be reflected in the way we relate to our Muslim neighbors as well as how we respond to issues that affect us politically as well as socially."


Africa, Dunn said, is experiencing rapid numerical growth. In 1900 there were nine million Christians in Africa. In 2000, that figure rose to 380 million, and is expected to reach 600 million by 2025. "With this kind of growth, it is easy to believe that all is going well with the church in Africa." But Dunn indicated that "the lack of a Christ-like lifestyle in dealing with matters of politics, ethnic tension and social challenges" needs to be urgently addressed by African Christians.


In confronting  these pressing issues, the BWA youth leader urged Baptists on the continent to pay keen attention to the evangelism mandate of Mark 16:16, the discipleship mandate of Matthew 28:19-20, the missiological mandate of john 17:18, and the global mandate of Acts 1:8.


Christians and churches, he said, should commit themselves to evangelism, the proclamation of the good news of the kingdom of God; to discipleship, teaching ,baptizing and nurturing new believers in the ways of the kingdom; to service, responding to people in need through love and compassion; and to justice, seeking to transform unjust structures in society. The church, Dunn declared, should remember that "the call to reach out and seek the lost, the least, the last and the left out, is not an option."


The BOL conference will conclude on November 16 and precedes the start of the 7th Assembly of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship, which runs November 16-20, also in Lagos.