Reflecting on the Peace Committee report
Years ago, a large statue of Christ was erected high in the Andes on the border between Argentina and Chile. Called “Christ the Redeemer of the Andes,” the statue symbolizes a pledge between the two countries that as long as the statue stands, there will be peace between Chile and Argentina. Shortly after the statue was erected, the Chileans began to protest that they had been slighted—the statue had its back turned to Chile. Just when tempers were at their highest in Chile, a Chilean newspaperman saved the day. In an editorial that not only satisfied the people but made them laugh, he simply said, “The people of Argentina need more watching over than the Chileans.” There was no great plan for peace—no declaration of peace. Just a simple statement that made people see their folly. As a part of the March 13, 1904, inauguration ceremony, two plaques were unveiled celebrating the friendship between the two countries. One is inscribed [in Spanish] “Sooner shall these mountain crags crumble to dust than Chile and Argentina shall break this peace which at the feet of Christ the Redeemer they have sworn to maintain.” And those two countries have been at peace and that statue has been standing as a symbol of peace for 105 years.
Sometimes the simplest words replace discord and conflict with peace and harmony.
Last week, the Peace Committee brought a simple and final report to the Executive Board of your Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC). The Peace Committee no longer exists—they were an ad hoc committee of the Executive Board and because their task is complete, they have been retired, and they are glad of it. I’m glad too—not because of dissatisfaction with their progress. I very much appreciate the work of the Peace Committee. And I enthusiastically support their report. Still, like the Chilean newspaperman from a century ago, the current MBC Peace Committee report is neither a declaration of peace, nor is it a plan for peace. Rather, it is a true path toward lasting peace within our MBC.
My goal in this article is not to inspire you concerning the rightness of the report, but to inform you regarding what may be the result of it. The Peace Committee Report outlines four steps that will enable Missouri Baptists to live in peace with God and with fellow Missouri Baptists. The fact is, the particular ideals offered by the Peace Committee Report are simple, Biblical principles that will cause Christ-likeness in individual Missouri Baptists, churches, associations, even the MBC.
If all of us will take the following steps, we will find genuine, lasting peace in our MBC.
Prayer Summits—the Peace Committee and the Executive Committee have asked me to organize several Prayer Summits across the Show-Me State throughout the rest of 2009 and 2010. I have asked Bob Loggins, MBC spiritual awakening specialist, to help me with this. Bob and I will enlist the help of our North American Mission Board partners as we prepare to engage Missouri Baptists in fervent prayer for spiritual awakening leading to lasting peace. We will host eight Prayer Summits in the eight regions of the MBC.
Biblical Reconciliation Seminars—I am thrilled to have also been asked to conduct several Biblical Reconciliation Seminars in the coming months. Johnny Johnson, a certified Biblical Conciliator associated with the Peacemakers organization, already has led the members of the Executive Board and your MBC Staff in a Biblical Reconciliation Seminar. The truths taught in those seminars are not new—but they were received afresh by the Executive Board and the staff and many of us have been challenged concerning our relationship with our Lord as evidenced by our relationships with fellow Christians. I plan to offer four of these Biblical Reconciliation Seminars around the state for MBC churches and another one specifically for our DOMs. I promise you—understanding and applying the principles of Biblical reconciliation will bring spiritual health to individual Missouri Baptists and to Missouri Baptist churches and associations.
Worldview Conferences—the Executive Board has also authorized me to conduct a Worldview Conference. I would like to host two of these important conferences between now and the end of 2010. A worldview conference is the best way I know to bring Biblical understanding to current events in our world, including the church world.
Personal Reconciliation—the Peace Committee Report also challenges every Missouri Baptist to exercise spiritual discernment concerning reconciliation that may need to take place between individuals within our MBC. May I challenge you to follow me as I follow Matthew 5:23-24 and seek to “… be reconciled to [my] brother.” And, I am convinced that Missouri Baptists who participate in our Prayer Summits, Biblical Reconciliation Seminars and Worldview Conferences will seek personal reconciliation wherever there is even the hint of an offense.
$100,000—the Executive Board also set aside $100,000 from reserves to accomplish the events listed above. Obviously the exact number of events will be dependent on the budgets needed to pull off those events. I am grateful that the Executive Board is thoughtful about the future of our MBC and willing to do what is necessary to insure our future. Your MBC staff and Executive Board are frugal stewards of the Lord’s money. We have worked hard to build reserves equaling more than four months of operating expense. Because these dollars will come from the reserve fund, the monies needed to host the events will not deter from the ongoing ministries of your MBC.
Interestingly, there have actually been some objections to the Peace Committee Report. Apparently, there are a few Missouri Baptists who feel that the peace process is unnecessary. Some Missouri Baptists have stated that there are only a few people who are actually fighting. The implication, I suppose, is that the number of Missouri Baptists involved in the fight is insignificant—and, not worth the time and money? But the number of Missouri Baptist churches in conflict is astronomical. The path to peace offered by the Peace Committee and Executive Board will be somewhat beneficial concerning denominational conflict—but absolutely priceless to our Missouri Baptist churches and associations.
Of course, the prescribed events will be beneficial only to the extent that Missouri Baptists make them successful through their attendance and participation—that is YOUR attendance and participation. Recall the inscription on the plaque and the commitment of the South Americans concerning peace. Similarly, what if Missouri Baptists adopt the attitude that “… the hills and the mountains of Missouri would crumble, the lakes of the Show-Me State would dry up, and the state’s forests would burn and turn to cinder before the Baptists of Missouri would break the peace we have laid at the feet of Jesus Christ, our Lord!”