FORT WASHINGTON, PA -- "Space: the final frontier." Participants in the North American Baptist Fellowship's (NABF) "FutureBaptists Convocation" gathered March 6-7 to imagine what missional challenges for Baptists might lie 50 years in the future. John Upton, president of the Baptist World Alliance and executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, encouraged those present by quoting the opening voice-over from Star Trek, calling for Baptists to "boldly go where no one has gone before."
Drawing an unlikely but apt comparison, Upton time-traveled from Star Trek back to Abraham, who was called to pack up and move to a new place, even though he didn't know where it would be. Like Abraham, Upton suggested, faithful Baptists must take risks and trust God to lead into an unknown future.
About 90 participants from the United States and Canada gathered at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church for the two-day meeting, where they marked the 50th anniversary of the organization's founding and sought to identify issues about which the NABF's 28 related organizations can most effectively focus their efforts in the coming years.
George Bullard, general secretary for the NABF, said Baptists in the Americas have often competed and sometimes compromised, but would do better to collaborate in their work for the Kingdom of God.
Bullard guided a process of discernment that included both small group discussions and plenary sessions. Beginning with the results from a pre-meeting survey of 20 issues sent to 500 persons, participants whittled those down to five areas for which they felt the most passion. The top five areas related to congregational transformation, economic oppression, authentic evangelism, human trafficking, and women in ministry.
Through further surveys and discussion, the Bullard said, NABF will choose three areas and develop collaborative strategies to work on those.
Following Jesus may be risky, Upton said, but "You're never too old or too young to embrace marvelous insecurities" on the journey of faith. "May you never be afraid of what lies ahead."
The NABF will meet next on July 11 in conjunction with the Baptist World Alliance annual gathering in Izmir, Turkey. The next annual meeting will be held April 16-17, 2015, in Vancouver, Canada.