South African pastor Ngwedla Paul Msiza was officially installed as president of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) in ceremonies at the Durban International Convention Center Saturday morning. Msiza is the second person from Africa to serve as president. His term will last for five years.
Echoing the 2015 Baptist World Congress theme of “Jesus Christ, the Door,” Msiza said the church must avoid the temptation to become doorkeepers who don’t go through the door, but control traffic through it, limiting who can come in and out.
“Remember that Christ said ‘I am the open door,’” Msiza said. “That is our mission: to proclaim, to guide, to walk with people. When this door is Jesus, as the word says, it has no partitions: it’s one door. Single entry. No special entrance.” On earth we have doors for dignitaries and other doors for common people, Msiza said, but with Jesus there is one door for everyone, “for we are all human beings created in the image of God.”
Msiza noted that Baptists work amidst others who use the same scriptures to teach false ideas such as the prosperity gospel, which is popular in many parts of Africa.
Baptists should focus on freedom and justice in both churches and communities, he said, calling all to the message of the cross, “carrying the message of hope that Jesus Christ is the door.”
In a farewell challenge, outgoing president John Upton of the U.S. also reflected on Christ as the door. Upton asked participants to consider the many doors they never notice – until they are locked. So many people are trapped and shut in, Upton said, but Baptists have a calling to proclaim Christ as the door. As God made a door for Israel to come out of Egypt and for Lazarus to come forth from the tomb, Baptists can go into places where people are trapped and bring ministries that help all to discover the door of Christ.
After Lamentations 3:21-26 was read in Singala (spoken in Sri Lanka) and Romans 8:31-39 was read in Shona (a Bantu dialect spoken mainly in Zimbabwe), Donald Ndichafah of Cameroon spoke to the theme of Christ as the door to love.
Experiencing Christ as the door begins with the acknowledgement of sin, Ndichafah said. “It doesn’t matter if people are rich or poor, they must agree with God that they are wrong, and repent and turn to God.”
The book of Lamentations was written in a context of suffering after God’s people took their relationship for granted, fell into sin, and were punished for it, he said. People wondered if there was still a future for them.
Today’s people have also sinned, Ndichafah said. Whether they bend the law to their own purposes or simply break the law, they have chosen to go their own ways, and many suffer. People may still ask questions similar to that of Lamentations, he said, and should hear that in the midst of a troubled world, God is a God of love and willing to forgive those who repent.
God’s love is steadfast and never ending, Ndichafah said, and new every morning. Believers can live in hope every day as God’s chosen people who are no longer condemned but brought into the liberating love of God. “When we drink our fill of the love of God,” he said, we overflow and share that love with others. “May Jesus continue to fill our cup with his love.”
The service closed with a time of confession and communion.
The Baptist World Congress concludes Sunday morning, July 26, with a closing celebration.