Our Baptist Movement is uniquely anchored in local communities
HERITAGE – Many of you may know that Baptist Care SA was established over 100 years ago in response to the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged South Australians by working ‘Together in Mission’ with and on behalf of local Baptist churches. A large part of what our organisation does today is focused upon developing and providing services that individual churches are not resourced to do, e.g. enter in contracts with government and employing staff (now over 1000 plus more than 200 volunteers) with professional expertise.
As we look toward and plan for future Horizons, I believe our heritage provides a platform upon which we can design and launch new approaches to transforming lives and communities. But do you know and appreciate how the history of our Baptist movement underpins and guides our future?
HISTORY records that the Baptist movement had its origins in political protest. It was founded on the conviction that neither the State nor the bishops of the Church had the right to dictate to the conscience of the believer.
The last 2-3 decades have seen Australian Baptists and Australian Baptist churches re-engage with social justice as a key dimension of the Church’s mission.
The 2011 National Church Life Survey found that 84% of people attending Baptist (and Churches of Christ) churches agreed that Christians should work to create a more just society.[i] This was the highest response of all denominations. The 2016 survey showed that, in the twelve months prior to the survey, 94% of Baptist churches were involved in some form of social service or advocacy, including 32% of churches that engaged in political or social justice advocacy. [ii]
NOW in the context outlined above, it is perhaps not surprising that a Strategic Focus Session recently conducted with representatives from 14 Baptist churches was grounded in faithful optimism and enthusiastic about the potential for collective impact. This exploratory discussion was focused around the working relationship between local churches and the professional services provided by Baptist Care SA. The room was filled with vibrant dialogue that revealed some shining examples of when joint ventures have been highly effective. We also had to face up to some instances where there have been struggles and disappointments that we need to review and learn from.
The resoundingly positive outcome of our interactions with Baptist church representatives was a mutual expression of genuine interest in finding ways to work more closely together into the future to strengthen lives and communities.
FUTURE. I invite you to pray for and with us that the groundswell of commitment to social justice across the Australian Baptist movement (as summarised above) will guide us all into purposeful, and mutually beneficial, partnerships and collaborative community ventures into the future, and that these enable us to Be SALT and Shed LIGHT in local communities.
Will you join with me by praying that our Lord will move ahead of us and show us how we might more effectively engage in mutual endeavours that have transformational impacts upon the lives of those that he has shown special compassion for… “Come to me, all of you who are weary from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:27
CEO, Baptist Care SA
[i] NCLS, “Justice. A Christian Role in Society” Fact Sheet 14023
[ii] Powell, Gan, Pepper & Hancock, Local church activities: Social service and advocacy Baptist Church in Australia (NCLS April 2018)