My 19-year-old daughter, Leslie, and 17 of her friends from Baylor recently boarded a jet bound for Uganda to minister alongside a group called Favour of God in remote villages outside of Gulu. This experienced mission team of students is a ministry product of Antioch Church in Waco, Texas.
Though I was concerned for her – remembering the atrocities of Idi Amin Dada, the brutal dictator who slaughtered thousands of Ugandan citizens – I knew she was going to have life-changing experiences while there. And I didn’t want to transfer my horrific memories of Uganda to Leslie. Feeling compelled by the Spirit to go there to serve, her enthusiasm about the ministry opportunity could not be dampened by anything I might have said. Divine intervention allowed my fearful memories and thoughts to find no voice.
As a pastor, I was always concerned how my children would find their way in their faith. Leslie, my oldest, has always had a way about her that has been uniquely comfortable with, and a justice seeker for, the marginalized. Emory, my 17-year-old son, finds his expression more in being a real friend, with a fearless Christ-like sensitivity, to those who seem to find it hard to have friends. God has blessed me by these two.
Living in a home where church politics, denominational dysfunction and conversations about fishbowl living were, far too often, a determiner of my disposition, I am blessed that serving people is a major part of their faith expression. Many know how easily it could have gone the other way.
My children’s generation has no patience for local church intrigue or denominational domination. They merely want to serve God in the most meaningful way possible. If that means service in ways outside the structures placed by polity, history or legacy, so be it.
In this post-denominational age, there are many opportunities and challenges in being the bride of Christ. The galvanizing force for Baptists has historically been missions. Yet, the mission-sending agencies of our legacy are becoming relics of their former selves. Historic mission boards have morphed into contemporary agencies in which the people, whose names are given to their mission offerings, would find it difficult, if not impossible, to serve.
Lottie Moon would not, I believe, sign a faith statement of coerced conformity in faith practice nor be discouraged from collaborative ministry engagements to serve Christ today. The rise of para-denominational vehicles for ministry is a direct result of institutionalized conformity playing havoc in the fields of service for the Kingdom.
Seminaries, directly supported by the Baptist General Convention of Texas, are producing outstanding graduates who are called to be missionaries. However, very few are being employed by the missionary agencies of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Most of our Texas Baptist churches continue to support the SBC through the Cooperative Program primarily “because of the missionaries.” Yet those very agencies, supported by Texas’ Baptist church dollars, do not see fit to cooperatively engage in ministry in Texas or employ graduates of seminaries supported by the BGCT.
My children’s generation is choosing not to play with denominational bullies. They are finding churches where innovation is embraced and organizations where the ministry rubber meets the road. Engaging in the backwash of a 30-year-old quest for power over institutions is, for them, irrelevant.
Relevancy is important to my children’s generation. Leslie’s ministry in Uganda was relevant: to the advancement of the Gospel; to comply with her sense of God’s call to serve; to calling out the called, regardless of gender; to loving others as a Baptist Christian in spite of denominational cannibalism; and, to the need for us all, to gaze into the future to discern what the next collaborative ventures for the Kingdom must look like.
My trust in my daughter’s sense of God’s presence in her life is relevant. It encourages me to be an advocate to enable, equip and empower Baptist Christian vehicles of ministry relevant to a new generation’s vision of advancing the cause of Christ.
I am proud of my daughter and others like her. They are making the unchangeable message of grace and mercy through Jesus Christ visible to the changing nature of our world. This rapid change, though difficult for many of us to embrace, is like falling off a bike for them.
I pray that God will help us eliminate dangerous memories with the courage to jettison relics of ministries past. Faithful engagement in the future demands it. Those who will serve there are worthy of our trust and prayerful support. God is powerfully with them.
Kerry Horn is associate executive director for Texas Baptists Committed.