Day: August 5, 2021

History professor to use Vision 2025 to show Baptists’ ‘cooperative venture’

HANNIBAL, Mo. (BP) – As a professor of Christian studies and religious history at Hannibal-LaGrange University (HLGU), Miles Mullin is always looking for ways to communicate the history and impact of Baptist work to the students in his charge.

During the upcoming semester, one of Mullin’s tools for his Baptist history class will be Vision 2025, the strategic initiative adopted by messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville earlier this summer.

“As I’m teaching Baptist history and heritage this fall, I always want students to be thinking about, not just our heritage, but how our heritage connects to the future and what ministry will look like for them,” Mullin said.

Baptist history and heritage is a required course for all students in the Christian studies program at HLGU, which is affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention. Mullin said the class covers history all the way back to the Reformation, but the majority of the second half of the class is specifically devoted to studying the history of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Topics covered include the formation of the SBC in 1845 and the 75 Million Campaign, which ran from 1919-1924 and led to the creation of the Cooperative Program in 1925.

Mullin plans to show students the connection between how Southern Baptists have partnered throughout their history, and how that enables their cooperation through an initiative like Vision 2025 nearly 100 years later.

“It strikes me that the six points [of Vision 2025] tie into our institutional organizational work, and shows how the entities of the convention help to do the work of the cooperative venture of the churches that is the convention,” Mullin said. “You’ve got the North American Mission board, you’ve got IMB [International Mission Board] in there, you’ve got the seminaries in there with calling out the called, it includes local church missions, talks about the Cooperative Program as well as involves Lifeway and the work of the ERLC.”

Though he was not able to attend the annual meeting in person this year, Mullin said he was impressed by the Vision 2025 presentation and by messengers’ approval of the strategic actions and wanted to share it with his students.

“I was very excited about Vision 2025 and seeing it come up,” Mullin said. “I thought the five points that came out of the Executive Committee were great, and I thought the sixth point that the messengers added from the floor made it even better.”

A graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Mullin served as the vice president for academic administration and dean of the faculty for Hannibal-LaGrange before returning to teaching in 2015.

He said he plans to display a small Vision 2025 poster in his classroom and is even considering including Vision 2025 as part of the curriculum of the class as students learn about the history of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Program.

“I think the Cooperative Program is brilliant,” Mullin said. “It really provides the mechanism whereby Southern Baptist churches can cooperate together in an organized format for the things that they have as a convention identified as priorities. I think it allows us to simultaneously persevere congregational autonomy, but also have a more cooperative and unified presence in the world. I think it’s critical.

“Students don’t know about the Cooperative Program and when they find out about it, they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s pretty cool.’”

Because the course tends to have only about 12-15 students, Mullin said he also hopes to have open discussion and dialogue with students about Vision 2025 with an opportunity for them to make suggestions about things they would have included had they been crafting the initiative.

He said the inclusion of strategic action No. 6 about the elimination of sexual abuse and racism from churches shows that although Southern Baptists have not been perfect, they are taking steps to treat all people of all nations with dignity.

“For point 6 we talk about how Southern Baptists haven’t always lived up to what the Bible teaches about treating people of different races or women well, but that we strive to do that in accordance with the Scripture,” Mullin said.

“We learn two things from history: We learn what our forbearers did well, and this can help us to do the same things well. It also helps us see where our forebears didn’t do some things well and to hopefully avoid some of those errors.”

Mullin said he hopes to help students understand that the aspects of Vision 2025 such as church planting, evangelism, calling out the called and reaching the next generation have always been an important part of Southern Baptist ministry.

Knowing many of his students will go on to serve in missions within the SBC, he hopes to inspire his students not only to learn about Vision 2025 but also to become a part of fulfilling its goals through both in their own ministry contexts and through supporting the Cooperative Program.

“The Cooperative Program still works really well, and I still think that we can do more together than we can do apart,” he said.


Missionaries use trading pins as bridge to gospel conversations

IMB missionaries Tara Rice (left) and Natalie Nation (right) use Olympic trading pins to share the gospel on the streets of Tokyo. IMB photo

Standing outside train stations, on street corners and in neighborhood squares, IMB missionaries hold signs advertising “Free Pins.” When people stop, missionaries use the “bridge” trading pins to talk about grace, hope, love, community and faith.

With international spectators and Japanese fans unable to attend the Olympics or be in the vicinity of venues, pin trading has not made much of an appearance, except, that is, for IMB missionaries, who’ve been giving pins they designed to share the gospel to people they meet.

Missionary Scott Bradford said they are primarily handing out their bridge pin, but they have others used to open faith conversations. The team distributes a pamphlet that explains each of their pins. If people have time, they share their faith and use the pins to talk about faith, grace and God’s redemption.

Missionaries had longer conversations with many people during a Sunday outreach event in the Akihabara district of Tokyo. Missionaries handed out 24 full sets of pins and 50 bridge pins.

Missionary Tara Rice and Journeyman Natalie Nation used the Tokyo bridge pin at an outreach in the Ikekuburo neighborhood to share with Kenta, a physical fitness trainer, who left with more than an Olympic souvenir.

This pin uses the colors of the Olympic rings and the image of a bridge to initiate a gospel conversation and lead into using the other five pins.

Kenta initially approached the women to practice speaking English and get a free pin. He left with the knowledge that his sin separates him from God, and there is no way to bridge that separation unless he puts his trust in Jesus.

Nation transitioned from talking about his life story into the story of the bridge pin. Without accepting the grace Jesus offers, there is no way to build a bridge back into relationship with God, Nation told Kenta.

“He completely changed his body position from away from us to toward us when we started sharing the gospel. When we got to the part about sin and being forever separated from God without the blood of Jesus, his eyes completely lit up in almost confusion and also intrigue,” Nation said.

Kenta asked if he could go and get his friend so he could also hear how his sin could be absolved.

He plans to attend an outreach event Nation and other missionaries are hosting in a park for Japanese young adults on August 7.

Rice said they also shared with a woman named Hitomi, who offered them candy. When Hitomi discovered Rice speaks Japanese, their conversation deepened.

Rice showed Hitomi the five pins and explained the meaning of each.

The Tokyo Tower is visible from around the city, and Japanese people see it as a symbol of their country’s post-World War II economic growth. Looking to God gives us hope, and we have the promise that we will thrive in our relationship with Him.

Holding up the hope pin, Rice said, “Our turning away from God left us in darkness … but God made a way for us to be restored.”

Hitomi, who was familiar with some of the tenets of Christianity, exclaimed, “Oh so that’s why this pin is hope!” Rice said she quickly internalized the meaning behind each of the pins.

“The version of Christianity that she had learned was to be a good person and good things will happen to you. And I told her that Jesus actually takes that pressure off of us by taking on the results of our sin,” Rice said.

“We serve Him out of genuine love for Him, and when I told her that, she was so excited by the idea.”

Nation and Rice hope her excitement will lead her to decide to trust in Christ. They also invited her to their outreach event on August 7.

Olympic pin trading has a 122-year history, dating back to the first Olympics in Athens in 1896. Pins are designed by organizations and companies to represent the Olympics, the host city and their organization. People can trade pins with one another, buy them from companies or receive them in exchange for listening to a presentation.

Pin trading is a fundamental part of the Olympics, and pins historically have been used by evangelicals as a method of sharing the gospel.

“Historically, in the Southern Baptist Convention, we have been using pin trading as a gospel bridge,” Daniel Rice said.

Bradford explained their Tokyo bridge pin contains the same colors in the Olympic rings.

“That becomes a bridge for us to talk about the five pins that we have created on love, grace, hope, faith and community that bridge to the gospel booklet that explains each of those pins,” Bradford said.

Each pin features a bridge, which symbolizes the connections that Christians make between the Japanese language, culture, landmarks and the gospel.

Caroline Anderson writes for the IMB from Southeast Asia.

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