By Sarah Jennings
An Interview with Rev. Dr. Elijah Brown, General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance
Rev. Dr. Elijah Brown and his wife Amy traveled from the USA to Lebanon this January to visit pastors and churches across the country. Brown is the General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and close partner of LSESD. During his time in Beirut, he led the weekly devotional for the LSESD staff, and we interviewed him about his passion for God’s mission around the world.
Esther used her voice to prevent a genocide in modern day Iran. Moses stood in front of Pharoah to free the Israelites from slavery. Nehemiah asked the Persian king for authorization to rebuild walls to protect Jerusalem.
These biblical figures all have one thing in common: they used their connections to speak up on behalf of those who were powerless. The Baptist World Alliance (BWA), a global network of 47 million Baptists in 126 countries and territories, reflects this call to Christians to use their voice to impact the world for Christ.
“Believers in Christ are to take two steps. First, we are to expose injustice [by speaking out in our communities]. Second, we are to be connected and associate ourselves with those who are experiencing those difficulties,” explained Rev. Dr. Elijah Brown, General Secretary of BWA.
His message, given to the LSESD staff on the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) campus, reminded the team that Jesus will strengthen us in this calling to share in the troubles of the world. The promise of discipleship with Jesus is that he’ll give us what we need, so we can then turn and share with others in need.
Paul writes in Philippians 4:13-14, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.”
Christians often focus on that first inspirational verse, which is a comfort indeed. Brown chose a different, unusual direction – zooming in on the Greek word for “share” in verse 14. Only used three times in the New Testament, he explained that Paul added a deeper meaning, which is the idea of “being connected to participate in” the troubles.
Brown encouraged the team, “In the New Testament, an expanded translation writes it this way. ‘You did a beautiful thing when you made yourselves fellow partakers with me in my trouble.’ It is good and useful when you share with those facing injustice, persecution, and difficulty. This is what you are doing right here, here at LSESD. You are doing a beautiful thing – not an easy thing… but as we share in the troubles of others, Paul writes that it is a beautiful thing.”
As we share in “some good trouble”, we can be assured that the Lord will strengthen us with everything, sometimes through the giving of partners across the world. In Paul’s story, he was supplied and encouraged (v. 15-16) by the Philippian church.
In the current crisis in Lebanon, we at LSESD feel this same encouragement from the global Christian family. Churches across the world are coming together to work for the common good. Our partners in churches across Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa are truly our brothers and sisters in the hard work and good trouble of making an impact for Christ.
Later that day in his interview, Brown expanded on how this global connection can inspire Lebanese churches. Our churches here, even in other contexts around the world, can play a powerful role – if we choose to exercise our voice on behalf of those who are suffering.
“Often when I am on the road, I challenge others to follow the example that you here in Lebanon are setting in helping to serve your community. I want to thank the Lebanese churches and LSESD for the incredible work that you’re doing. Know that your work is being looked at around the world as a challenging testimony to live with gospel generosity,” said Brown.
The Church here is conscious of their impact in the region. For example, the Syrian refugee crisis forced Christians to navigate reconciliation between national enemies. Students at ABTS hail from all over the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to get trained for effective ministry, transforming knowledge into practical impact in their local communities. Dar Manhal Al Hayat (DMAH), our publishing house, visits book fairs in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria.
Yet there is room to grow.
“How are the churches in Lebanon going to use their voice to work for the betterment of this society for the common good of all, but also for the challenges that religious minorities, Christians and others, face across the region in places like Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and here in Lebanon as well?” asked Brown.
We have a long legacy to look back on for inspiration. Baptist World Aid, a key ministry of BWA, has been responding to people in need since 1920, catalyzed by the Spanish flu pandemic and aftermath of World War I. At LSESD, we are thankful to stand together with a global Christian community to give aid to communities in need.
It’s time to go out and share in some good trouble.