What does it mean to be faithful to God and God’s mission in the world? Shallom Baptist Church in Ipatinga is determined to discover the answer to this question. As coordinators of the National Baptist Convention of Brazil’s integral mission program (called REDEMI), we were invited to be the keynote speakers and provide training to launch Shallom’s annual mission campaign with the theme “Faithful to the Lord of the Harvest.” Members of the church and its 15 congregations gathered for the opening worship on Saturday, and we shared a message called “Faithful to
the 3 Great Commissions of Jesus.” We highlighted the three times Jesus sent his disciples out to fully express God’s love, and we asked the church “what does this mean for us today?”
- Jesus sends us as the Father sent him (John 20:21),
- He sends us to make imitators (i.e. disciples) among all peoples of the world (Matt. 28:19), and finally
- He sends us to be his witnesses through the power of Holy Spirit “here, there, and everywhere” (Acts 1:8).
Our jaw dropped when Pastor Wagner Bretas, Shallom’s senior pastor, presented this year’s mission offering goal – R$270,000 (about US$120,000)! Pr. Wagner joyfully recounted the faithfulness of the Lord expressed through the church every year since it was founded 19 years ago, when the first offering was R$65 (about US$30 today).
On Sunday Ann explained the deeper meaning of the Hebrew word hesed in the Old Testament to about 120 people in the adult Sunday School class. Hesed, often translated as “faithfulness” or “loyalty,” has the connotation of “love or goodness expressed in action.” Being faithful to the Great Commissions of Jesus, then, means actively participating in the Lord’s harvest as Christ’s ambassadors in our family and friendship circles, in our community, and in caring for God’s creation.
That same morning, Bruce led a training course for 30+ leaders who mobilize Shallom and its congregations for extensive local, national and international mission service. The group reflected on the identity and mission of the local church in God’s integral mission, and studied the seven steps to “mobilize the whole church for the whole mission of God.”
At the final Sunday evening worship service, we challenged the church to be “The People Who Represent God to the World” based on Exodus 19:1-6. As God’s holy (“set apart”) people, we are called and empowered to express God’s hesed: love in action.
We are inspired by the commitment of this church to live out God’s mission in a variety of holistic ministries. God is using Shallom to bless its city through two drug and alcohol recovery houses, a shelter for abused and abandoned children, a community recreation center that serves both teens and senior citizens in a poor neighborhood, vocational and English language courses, and a theological seminary. At the national level, Shallom makes short-term mission trips to poor communities in the rural areas, and it supports several national missionaries who serve in Brazil. It is especially in the international dimension of mission that the scope of the church’s call becomes evident: Shallom supports a total of 19 cross-cultural missionaries who serve in 10 countries around the world through the Baptist Convention’s cross-cultural mission agency JAMI.
In God’s perspective the local church doesn’t DO missions - the local church IS God’s mission, present and active in the world. As a well-known missiologist observed, calling a church “missionary” is like calling a woman “female:” either the church is missionary, or it isn’t a church. Shallom Baptist Church is a living example of a church that seeks to be faithful to God’s mission in its entirety. Truly, this is a hesed family of faith that is committed to being Christ in the world.
Our time with the Shallom family spurred us to reflect on our own local congregation: How hesed are we? What can we do to encourage one another to an even deeper expression of God’s hesed?
Reflecting on this, we also praise God for your hesed as you walk with us in our ministry in Brazil. Your prayers, your emails, and your financial support gifts to International Ministries make all the difference!