The 21st Baptist World Congress took flight Wednesday night with a colorful troupe of singers from Africa, happy hymn singing, scripture readings, lots of music, and a message from Peter Chin, pastor of the Global Mission Church in the Bunding-Suji district of South Korea.
The overall theme of the congress is “Jesus Christ, the Door,” and Wednesday evening’s program focused on Jesus as the door to light. Isaiah 60:1-4 was read in Arabic, and John 1:1-9 was read in Telegu (spoken in the southern Indian state of Andra Pradesh) and Amharic (spoken in Ethiopia).
Chin recalled preaching in Kenya during his time as a missionary there, and said the power went out one night, leaving everyone in pitch-black darkness. “I couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or closed,” he said, leaving him unsure what to do until someone lit a candle, bringing light into the darkness.
The world is full of darkness, Chin said — a darkness of heart, the darkness of suffering, political darkness, economic darkness, spiritual darkness — “yet Jesus said ‘I am the light, and when the light comes, it drives out all the darkness.'”
Chin challenged those present to walk in the light and remember that as Christ shines on believers, we are to reflect his light and also “shine wherever there is darkness in our countries, our homes, our workplaces, even in our churches. We shine because Jesus shines on us.”
“Baptists are known as people of the Book,” Chin said: “now let us be known as people of the light.”
This year’s meeting is the first to be held on the continent of Africa, and the last to be known as the Baptist World Congress. Beginning in 2020 with a meeting in Rio de Janeiro, the Baptist World Congress will be combined with the periodic Youth Congress, and will be called “Celebration 2020.”