“To love the Lord our God is the heartbeat of our mission
The spring from which our service overflows
Across the street or around the world
The mission’s still the same
Proclaim and live the Truth in Jesus’ name.”
The work of Baptist Missions incorporates the sentiment expressed in these lyrics. Last year we marked the 90th Anniversary of the work in Peru, and this year we acknowledge the 130th anniversary since the formation of the Irish Baptist Home Mission (later to become Baptist Missions). We might call our local work ‘evangelism’ and foreign work ‘missions’, but it is all the same mission of proclaiming and living the truth of the gospel in the name of Jesus. David P Kingdon (former Irish Baptist College Principal) argued that “The prosecution of evangelism abroad should always stimulate evangelism at home.” We see this principle at work through Baptist Missions as the mission of proclaiming and living the truth in Jesus’ name takes place in France, Spain, Peru and Ireland.
Irish Baptists have been making a concerted effort to reach out and plant churches in Ireland since 1814 under the auspices of the English Baptist Missionary Society, and since 1888 as an independent Irish Baptist Mission. Many of our current Association churches have been born out of the work of the Irish Baptist Home Mission, later Baptist Missions, as we have sought to reach out to the lost and undertaken to plant churches. After the famine years (1845-47), much of the work concentrated in the north with churches planted, constituted and joining the Baptist Union. In more recent years, most of the churches planted, constituted and joining the Association have been in the south. In 1990 there were only 13 churches in membership from the South. By 2015 this number had risen to 28.
The Irish Baptist Home Mission had the responsibility of providing financial support to struggling churches, including our own church in Carrickfergus, in the first half of the 20th Century at a time when membership numbers were low and we were without a pastor. At one point the Home Mission provided help to 22 out of 32 churches in the Baptist Union. This was not the end of our connections in Carrickfergus with Baptist Missions. We sent missionaries in the 1970s and 80s to work in Dublin and Limerick; one of our former Pastors and current member, Derek Baxter, was Baptist Missions Secretary; and current Baptist Missions workers, David & Pamela Dickson, have been commissioned by the church to work with Shankill Community Fellowship.
Evangelism through the IBHM over the years has taken the form of tent missions, church based missions, motor caravan, itinerant teams, church planting, specialist ministries and distribution of the Scriptures. At one point, the Mission was able to offer the services of four full-time evangelists to churches. This work enabled reaching into new areas and the planting of new churches. Today, we have workers in 8 locations throughout Ireland, and partner with Worldventure, ABWE and Crossworld workers across five counties.
At Missions Night on 15th May, we will be marking this anniversary as we focus on our current work in Ireland. We will be hearing from Len & Joyce Keys and the finding out more about life in the Old Courthouse, catching up with David & Pamela Dickson and life on the Shankill Road, hearing about a new church planting initiative with the Grosvenor Road Church in South Dublin, and meeting the most recent Baptist Missions recruits for the Irish field, Richard & Mandy McConnell.
Given our long and continuing connection with Baptist Missions, as well as the mission of proclaiming and living the truth in Jesus’ name, please plan to come along on Tuesday 15th May at 7.30pm to Lisburn Baptist Church to hear from those continuing to share the gospel throughout Ireland in this 130th year.
You are also invited to attend an event with Dr David Sills (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), a missions practitioner, missions professor, and missions agency president, on Thursday 10th May at 7.30pm in Moira Baptist. Dr Sills will present some of the challenges of change that are facing missionaries and ministers of the Gospel and provide a blueprint for faithfully navigating them to maximum faithfulness and kingdom impact.