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Spiritual renewal, persecution among reports to BWA council

DRESDEN, Germany (BP)–The need for spiritual renewal in Germany and the challenge of persecution in Nepal were among reports voiced during the Baptist World Alliance’s General Council meeting July 11-17 in Dresden, Germany — along with rejoicing for spiritual vibrancy in Cuba and various other countries.
“Here where the great Reformer Martin Luther brought us the Bible in our own language, we are living in a Christian museum,” said Eckhard Schaefer, general secretary of the Union of Evangelical Free Churches in Germany. “We need an infusion of the Holy Spirit.
“Dear brothers and sisters from the Third World, to whom we sent the gospel, please bring us the spreading fire of the Holy Spirit,” Schaefer urged. “We need to learn evangelism is not an option but a necessity.
“In Germany and other countries of the West, we have stopped scooping water from the life-giving well,” Schaefer said. “Instead, we have made our own wells which are dry. Men and women demand security peace and hope and meaning in life, but how is it possible to find these things without God?
“We therefore need to learn how we can be testimonies of Jesus Christ in our time and age,” Schaefer said.
Baptists, the largest Christian group in Nepal, meanwhile, continue to face persecution for their enthusiastic gospel ministry, reported Harry Gurung, general secretary of the Nepal Baptist Church Council.
Word came during the Dresden meeting that Daniel Subba, president of the Nepal Baptist Church Council, had been arrested but later freed on bail when he went to bring an evangelist home from jail.
While it has become dangerous to openly preach in the Hindu country, where the constitution does not allow open evangelizing, Gurung said, “We cannot keep silent.” There are now 65 Baptist churches and 234 preaching points in Nepal, remarkable for work that started in 1992. The Baptist council has a goal of reaching 300 churches by the year 2000.
Testimonies abounded, meanwhile, of Baptists around the world witnessing to their faith in Jesus Christ.
“We are living in the best moment in Cuba,” said Leoncio Veguilla Cene, president of the Baptist Convention of Western Cuba. “ Our churches are on fire.”
Fausto Vasconcelos, pastor of the First Baptist Church, Rio De Janiero, Brazil, reported more than 12,000 decisions for Christ were made in a recent seven-day evangelistic campaign attended by more than 70,000 people.
“I have personally been involved in planting two new churches” reported Peter Pinder, pastor of Zion Baptist Church, Freeport, Bahamas and Caribbean Baptist Fellowship head.
“We are still fishing for souls” said Guntur Subagyo, general secretary of the Union of Indonesian Baptist Churches, where Baptists minister in a volatile religious situation as part of the political and economic upheavals in that country.
While growth in Japan may be slow, there are exciting stories such as the one of a woman who uses her home twice a month for services and has seen many come to Christ. Bonny Resu, Asian Baptist Federation leader who reported the story, said on a recent visit to Japan he also met a man who had led six of his co-workers to the Lord.
Resu said he also was impressed in New Zealand by two churches that had purchased nightclubs and converted them to churches that were now filled to capacity.
“Now that Hong Kong is part of China, we have many more opportunities to do evangelism in China,” reported Chu Wood-Ping, general secretary of the Baptist Convention of Hong Kong.
Paige Patterson, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told the council of the concern of the SBC for urban America. “The genesis of our convention is agrarian and suburban,” he said, “and we have not done well in the inner cities. We need a strategic focus for the cities, since we know that social programs alone will fail, unless you have real regeneration.”
Robert Ricker, president of the Baptist General Conference and a vice president of the North American Baptist Fellowship, said the fervency and passion for worship and witness among believing youth in North America is a sign of renewal. He praised such programs as “True Love Waits” a program that stresses sexual abstinence for youth, and “Meet You at the Pole,” in which young people pray for their world.
Other hopeful signs of renewal Ricker cited are a new intentionality in personal witnessing combined with meeting human needs; a great movement of prayer unparalleled in the history of Christendom; church planting emphases by all North American Baptists; a studied effort to adapt to changing needs of international missions; and a new understanding of what it takes to revitalize declining or plateaued churches. He urged world Baptists to pray for holiness and purity of doctrine in North America.
Tony Cupit, BWA director of study and research, reported the BWA has grown by more than 3 million in the last decade and at the end of 1998 showed a membership of 159,878 churches and almost 43 million members.
The greatest growth is in Africa, 47 percent for the decade, with Baptist numbers there now encompassing 3.5 million baptized believers in 7,648 churches, Cupit said. Venezuela, meanwhile, has grown by 37 percent, now with 245,000 baptized believers in 230 churches, Cupit said, while the Caribbean has grown by 35 percent, now with 204,234 baptized believers in 1,412 churches.
“We must keep growing,” said BWA President Nilson Fanini, presiding at his last General Council meeting.
Fanini, a Brazilian pastor and evangelist, noted Billy Kim of South Korea, who is being nominated as his successor, likewise is a pastor and evangelist, thus Fanini voiced certainty the emphasis on growth would continue. Fanini concluded the council meeting by challenging Baptists to double their numbers, the same challenge he has given throughout his tenure.

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  • Wendy Ryan