CBF’s Advocacy in Action Conference took place March 11-14, 2019, at the United Nations in New York City, N.Y. Advocacy in Action is a four-day opportunity to put faith to action while impacting the most pressing issues of the day. The conference explores advocacy as a faithful expression of Christian mission, develops a biblical basis for advocacy and teaches how to be an effective advocate — locally, nationally and globally.
By Steve Hemphill
I just returned from a series of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship meetings in New York City where the topic was “Advocacy in Action.” The emphasis of the opening address was “What role does advocacy play in your faith?” As is often the case, my mind wandered while the speaker continued. I’ll reverse engineer what my mind was going through (something I know everyone has done when wondering how thoughts or a conversation got off course).
I was remembering when I was a kid, long before cell phones when my family would embark on a rare vacation—a seven-hour drive to Dallas/Ft. Worth (with a vague temptation that we might visit a brand new place called “Six Flags Over Texas”). About an hour into the road trip, my mother would start worrying that she didn’t turn off the iron (other trips it was the gas stove). Without cell phones to call someone to go check, we stopped by a payphone and tried to catch someone at home. Nobody was there, so we turned around and returned. Of course the iron/stove was always turned off. Back on the road again, a seven hour trip became a nine hour trip. My Dad was not happy the rest of the drive!
What made me think of that was the story of Mary and Joseph leaving for home, only to find out Jesus was not with them. As they were walking or riding donkeys, their trip was likely elongated by a day or two.
Although the Gospel tells us Jesus was teaching the Torah to the Rabbis, the story leaves out the details of the parental response. I always knew that Jesus probably got a very strong swat across his behind and was sternly told, ‘Don’t you ever do that again!” And it must have worked, there are no further stories of an errant Jesus!
What made me think of Jesus’ getting spanked was the speaker who asked, “what role advocacy plays in your faith?”
By any Christian metric, we’re supposed to measure our faith by Jesus. What role did advocacy play in Jesus’s faith? Jesus was advocacy—that’s the story of his life—starting with his advocating better theological training to the elders in the temple. The rest of his ministry was advocating caring for the widow, the immigrant, the weak and lame and even the tax collector or prostitute. Jesus never took time out of his faith ministry to consider a new approach. It was advocacy 24/7.
We are not as faithful as Jesus was—that’s obvious. Few of us are willing to be crucified for our faith. We are advocates, however.
We advocate all the time for our political candidate/philosophy; our sports team; our career; family/friends etc. Advocacy is life and life is advocacy. Hence the question becomes not, “What role does advocacy play in our faith?,” but rather: “What role does faith play in our advocacy?”
Steve Hemphill is retired from careers as a Missouri prosecutor and a diplomat. He volunteers extensively for William Jewell College, Second Baptist Church of Liberty, Mo., and travels internationally for the Future Leadership Foundation and short term assignments with the U.S. State Department.