Willson Lecturer encourages generations to act intentionally to forge links, preserve Baptist heritage

Release Date: March 4, 2009    

PLAINVIEW – In the first of two speaking engagements at Wayland Baptist University, B.H. Carroll Theological Institute professor Dr. Karen Bullock addressed the past generation of the church, urging them to act intentionally with regard to the new generation of up-and-coming church leaders. Then she turned her attention to that generation with some advice for them as well.

At the Tuesday evening banquet kicking off the two-day Willson Lectures series at Wayland, Bullock addressed the audience about the dire need for the Boomers and Generation Xers to look past the differences with “Generation Me” and forge links for the good of the greater church body and, ultimately, for the good of the Kingdom of God.

“In every age Christians have lived, brothers and sisters have reacted to the world events. But sometimes they have led out in changing the world. I believe that such a time in upon us,” Bullock said. “This generation is not only the future, this generation is now. Even in the era of the depression epidemic, we can share the best of who we are and have been, a people trusting in the Bridegroom.”

Bullock laid out a list of behaviors and attitudes of the current generation – ranging from their incredible grasp of technology and connectedness and their self-centered approach to their lack of long-term commitment and inability to deal with failure or disappointment. But she followed that with the announcement that this generation is leading the world in a search for that which is genuine, including a renewed interest in faith.

“After centuries of steady decline, religion is making a startling comeback,” she said. “The world is turning its face toward the church, but the church, it seems, is asleep.”

Bullock encouraged previous generations to practice introspection about its own behaviors and beliefs, focus on what is important, especially as it relates the younger generation with the church, and to look into other “landscapes” to see what could be in the future.

“We must see (younger generations) intentionally. We must help our believing communities have eyes to see the world around them,” Bullock said. “It was Jesus who gazed upon the people and had pit on them and wept for them. He is the one who taught people to be instruments of transformation.”

She also encouraged listening and learning from the current generation and mentoring with intentionality, modeling ministry and relationships and fostering an appreciation for hard work and an understanding for social cause and effect. Above all, she said an open mind is vital.

“We can treasure the past but still be open to new ideas,” she said. “Ask the younger generations for their help in shaping the church. We have to value them not because of who they are but because God values them and sent his son to die for them.”

During Wednesday’s chapel service, Bullock turned her attention to the younger generation, addressing a crowd primarily composed of Wayland students with a message in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Baptist church. With an extensive background on early Baptists and the suffering they endured for their differing views, Bullock encouraged students to remember the stories of these “rebels, rogues and reles” – teen-speak for relatives – and learn from their experiences while appreciating the battles they fought for current-day freedom.

“This is no cheap grace we have received, yet there is always a cost to someone. Our Baptist forebears knew about persecution and suffering,” Bullock said. She noted that many of those early English Baptists were imprisoned or killed for their beliefs and convictions, especially those that went against the state church such as baptizing infants. Early Baptists were typically on the run and under great scrutiny, and parents of newborns often hid their children and kept them out of the parishes so as not to be subject to infant baptism. They preached behind curtains and endured great punishment for their home church meetings.

“They knew that to follow Christ meant not even being buried in consecrated church grounds. They learned what Paul knew, that to find life, they had to lose theirs,” Bullock said. “The faith heritage we leave behind is more valuable than riches, land or fame. Our right to worship in freedom is largely a Baptist story.”

Bullock said in an ever-changing world that Christians continue to take the gospel out to the nations, sometimes with great physical risk or outright danger. As a teacher to future missionaries, she said it is difficult at times to realize that those students she has come to know and love and pray for may be in harm’s way as they enter ministry roles.

Her challenge to the Wayland students was to life intentionally, to be bold in their faith, partially in respect and remembrance of those who came 400 years or more before them and truly lost their own lives to gain a greater reward.

“Our enduring hope is that this generation – your generation – will be the one to see the people of every tribe and tongue come to know Jesus Christ,” she said. “But it will be costly for some.”

The Willson Lecture series wrapped up with an afternoon open forum for discussion with Dr. Bullock which was open to the public.