As with last summer, my program at Dallas Baptist University has me traveling to learn about leadership. Last year in D.C. it was about political/national leadership in the U.S. context, this year it is about Global Leadership. We spend June reading books and theories of Global leadership as well as preparing papers to present and for seminar presentations. Today, we went to Moulton and Olney, two small villages that though small in size, played a huge role in global missions, particularly Baptist global missions. Moulton was the town where William Carey served his first congregation. Carey is known as the "father of the modern mission movement." He was largely self educated but had a passion for missions to the unconverted, particularly in India. He worked with Jon Sutcliffe of nearby Olney to start the Baptist Missionary Society and set sail for India in 1792. He never returned to England but spent his life there, teaching, translating the Bible and eventually starting the first college allowed by the crown to be able to give university degrees in India.
To Carey's credit, part of his slow progress in conversions was his hope that missionaries would focus on understanding the local culture, translating and understanding the language and building up local leaders. That way the church would have sticking power and not simply be a vassal of the colonial power. Unfortunately, too many missionaries took it upon themselves to be agents of the colonial ruler, thus tying Christianity to Western culture and values, which significantly set the church back.
He lifted up leaders like Carey and others as well as worked with the local Church of England pastor (a guy named John Newton) to better the ministry in this town that was struggling with the industrial revolution. Many of the cities in the area had been lace manufacturers. With automation, that trade disappeared quickly. Working for social justice Sutcliffe demonstrated significant Cooperative and Adaptive leadership skills to lift out the best attributes of the people in his midst for the mission of the organization.
Even more inspiring was to met the current pastor of this congregation who has revitalized it into a living exciting place of mission in a basically de-churched community (only about 5-7% of folks in England are in worship on a Sunday). As you can see from the picture, they have renovated the 300+ year old sanctuary for modern use and have plans to expand to accommodate their growing membership. Perspective was also useful to understand that in England, a congregation with 60 members is considered large enough to support a pastor (hmmmmm...wondering about those American tithers).
From Olney/Sutcliffe Baptist we walked down the street to St. Peters and Paul Church (CofA). This is where Newton served and was ultimately buried. If you don't recognize the name John Newton, well you should. We sang his hymn, Amazing Grace, in the sanctuary while still being able to smell the sweetness of the incense remaining from the morning masses. A lovely experience for us all. Again, Newton showed Courageous leadership by working with folks like Sutcliffe. As the establishment church leader, he needed not do so, but he chose to because he believed it was the right thing to do for the people of the town. Unlike so many modern pastors, only concerned with their own congregations, both Sutcliffe and Newtown showed humility and focus on leadership and mission.
As I mentioned, a beautiful place to sing Amazing Grace. Although I had to speed up the tempo for our Baptist friends, they started out in funeral dirge speed.;-)