On April 3 and 4 the overseers of the Baptist General Conference approved a new missional name and staff restructuring that we all believe will better help us to accomplish our one mission across the world. Let me tell you first about the new missional name. There are three words that we will use as a tag line that describe the strategy of how we do our mission. Those words are Connect, Ignite and Transform. By connect we mean bringing people together in relational unity in which they can learn from one another. Ignite refers to our strong belief that ministry is first and foremost the work of God. It is only when the Holy Spirit ignites our lives, and when we follow the Lord Jesus, that we can truly do the mission that the Father has assigned us. Transform refers to the impact of spiritual ministry. When we work together by the power of the Holy Spirit we will see more people come to faith, more churches start and we will even see transformation in our communities. We feel these words best describe what we are seeking to do as a movement of churches.”
“Our new missional name really flows out of the intersection of those three words, Connect, Ignite and Transform. The name is Converge Worldwide. The idea is that we come together expecting God to guide us and empower us to accomplish his mission. This doesn’t mean that we lose our formal name, Baptist General Conference. We will always be proud of our core convictions as Baptists and our rich history. The missional name and tag line will help us to focus on God’s key work for us in this generation. When we use the word Converge, we picture connecting God’s people to God’s purposes so that lives and communities might be impacted by Christ’s love worldwide.”
Take sometime to listen to Dr. Jerry Sheveland’s vision casting message he shared at the Annual meeting in June.
We have inherited a rich legacy from those early days and from the vigorous faith of our Swedish immigrant founders. Converge Worldwide celebrates that history as our core values and historic Baptist distinctives continue to shape our labors for God and His kingdom. Yet we are a different people with many contemporary strategies for carrying out God’s work.
A Diverse People
Converge Worldwide transitioned from a predominantly Swedish-speaking people to English-language-centered worship, preaching and publishing. Over the past few decades our ethnic diversity has grown to embrace many cultural groups. Today, in the U.S. there are people who worship in Spanish, Filipino languages, Haitian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, Hebrew, Laotian and several other languages. God has transformed us into a diverse family of 19 ethnic cultures, with all the life, vigor and challenges that implies.
Contemporary Global Mission
Converge Worldwide has had strong historic involvement in sending missionaries abroad, with more than 100 entering world missions prior to 1944, when the Converge Worldwide voted to initiate its own overseas mission program. Today you can find Converge Worldwide missionaries in Central and South America; southern Europe and former Eastern Bloc nations; western and eastern Africa; Muslim north Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia; the Indian subcontinent and the Asian Pacific rim.
In addition to traditional church planting, theological training and medical ministries, Converge Worldwide missionaries engage in a wide variety of contemporary strategies, including:
- supporting an array of national missionaries
- cooperating with other agencies and indigenous Baptist fellowships
- targeting 25 unreached people groups for evangelism and church planting
- taking the gospel to the world’s largest cities
- gaining access in restricted countries through literacy programs, satellite broadcasting and radio, computer training, conversational English programs, veterinary care, water and agricultural development, health programs, small-enterprise loans to the poor, child sponsorship, sports outreaches and translation and literacy
- assisting churches in recruiting and sending short-term and career missionaries
Through ConvergeUSA, we continue to assist the 13 district offices in their efforts to start churches throughout the United States. All these ministries are coordinated by our International Ministries division.
You have read how district conferences formed before the BGC organized nationally. In addition to starting churches, districts provide- many services to assist congregations in fulfilling God’s mission- for their communities: pastoral placement, care and counseling; ministry- consultation (women, men, children, youth, older adults, parenting, church conflict resolution); seminars and resources (revitalization and renewal, finances, leader training); camping and retreats; missions opportunities.
The National Ministries division of the national office assists churches by providing consultation, events and resources for:
- strategic planning/revitalization
- older adult ministries
- pastoral care and enrichment
- prayer ministries
- women’s ministries
- multicultural ministries
- student ministries
- chaplain/social agency endorsement
- Christian education
Aggressively Training Leaders
In the early years we saw John Alexis Edgren’s vision to train ministers of the gospel, and his founding of Bethel Theological Seminary in 1871 as a huge first step. Today Bethel operates Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn., that offers bachelor’s degrees in 57 majors, adult degree completion programs and five graduate programs. With campuses in St. Paul and San Diego, Bethel Seminary offers five Christian master’s degree programs and two doctoral programs. U.S. News and World Report regularly includes Bethel in its annual issue on “America’s Best Colleges.”
The BGC has had a rich past and and awesome future.