By Carrie McGuffin
During the World Congress of the Baptist World Alliance in Durban, South Africa this week, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter led an English speaking Bible study focusing on the Gospel of John, chapter 10.
Paynter addressed those gathered giving thanks for the gift of the diversity within the room.
“One of the things that is our treasure and gift of this particular congress is not the capacity of a single person, but the great capacity of this group together,” said Paynter. “The sacred treasure of meeting from around the world is God’s gift to us.”
Beyond this gift, Paynter acknowledged the commonality that brings this global Baptist community together: a commitment to spend time in the scripture and focus on scripture—“the language of our commonality,” she emphasized.
This common language that is being addressed during Bible studies is that of the shepherd found in both Ezekiel 34 and the Gospel of John, chapter 10.
The scripture offers a “point/counterpoint” as Paynter pointed out, as Ezekiel and Jesus address the corrupt leadership of a fallen Jerusalem and the Synagogue, respectively.
Addressing the idea of the selfish shepherd and the loving shepherd, the prophet and the teacher find the flaws in those leaders who only take care of themselves, take advantage of their flock and let their flock scatter in the darkness.
God’s words then echo through Ezekiel and Jesus as they describe the picture of the good shepherd, the one that will rescue the flock, bring them in, seek the lost, bind up the injured, nourish the sick and watch over the sleek and strong.
Jesus’ description of this good shepherd comes on the heels of the account of the blind man who is healed in the pool of Siloam and then interrogated in the synagogue, Paynter pointed out. The treatment of the healed blind man by the Jewish leaders made Jesus certain that the people of God were being harassed by false leaders.
These religious leaders were the shepherds that could climb over the gate of the fold of sheep, while Jesus opens the door and calls to them—referring to John 10:1-3.
In the wake of this event with the blind man in the synagogue, Paynter emphasized, the blind man represents all of us—everyone in the flock—blind until our eyes are opened by Christ the light, lost until the door is opened and the good shepherd calls to us.
“Someplace Jesus touched us,” Paynter said. “Someplace Jesus touched us and brought us into this flock. Someplace our journey of follow-ship began. At some point this shepherd who is speaking to feed us with justice, this shepherd who is leading us, the shepherd who is tending our heart found us.”
The World Congress is taking place at the International Convention Center in Durban and lasts through Sunday, July 26. More than 2,500 Baptist clergy and lay leaders from over 80 countries around the world are gathered to celebrate our global community. To learn more about the World Congress, visit http://www.bwanet.org/.