Reflection on 100 years
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Bangladesh Baptist Church Fellowship (BBCF), our faithful partners and friends. In the midst of the celebration we were able to get Leor Sarkar’s thoughts on this momentous occasion. Leor shared about BBCF’s history, the challenges that they address and their vision for the future.
Leor was born into a Christian family and brought up in the church. However, it was not until youth camp in 1987 that Leor realized the need for salvation and gave his life to Jesus Christ. After completing his education, Leor began working as a youth minister and then as a pastor to people with disabilities. He has worked with many leaders and ministries across Bangladesh. In 2001 he became the leader of BBCF.
The 100th anniversary of our fellowship provides a marvelous opportunity for us to reflect on God’s glory in our personal and Church life, and renew our collective calling for evangelism and integral mission.
As the BBCF celebrates 100 years of ministry, we enter a new era of missions service. This period will look and feel much different than the world in 1919. Dramatic changes have occurred over this past century, and great challenges have arisen while engaging the unfinished task of evangelization. Nonetheless, we have learned valuable lessons by drawing on the reservoir of missiological knowledge accumulated during our history.
In 1919, 11 Churches planted by Australian and New Zealander Baptist missionaries, came together to form BBCF as an indigenous church convention, with the purpose to fulfill the Great Commission.
The ministry’s leadership was made up of foreign missionaries, who sacrificed so much to be in Bangladesh all those years ago. When Bangladesh was liberated in 1971, local leadership began to rise up in the country.
Between 1980 and 1990 there was a revival in our churches and we grew from 36 to 221 churches. Soon after the army came into power and foreign missionaries were forced to leave Bangladesh. Between 1990 and 2000 the church continued to grow but we struggled without the support from the missionaries. In 2001, I became the leader of BBCF and I really found it difficult because there was still no real support and we had close to 400 churches at that point in time.
In 2004 — when we were struggling to nurture our churches — Partners International became our partners. They helped establish support for our leaders and evangelists to begin training local pastors. The convention started growing again, in size and health. Since then, Bangladesh has experienced a period of persecution where evangelists were threatened and some of our pastors were beaten. The ministry persevered through this pressure and in the last 4 or 5 years the situation has become much more favorable for the church.
Church Health and Leadership
At BBCF we are very intentional about improving church health. One of the greatest challenges we faced in order to establish healthy churches was the lack of leadership across the convention. We experienced rapid church growth in Bangladesh but we realized the need to improve in the area of discipleship as we did not have enough matured leaders in the field.
To address this challenge we started the Village Pastors Training Program. With the support of Partners International we equipped rural pastors with the necessary skills for ministry, namely Biblical studies, theology, discipleship for new believers, pastoral care, and church planting.
We have begun expanding our efforts to encourage the continuation of church health for years to come. We have a cohort of pastors that were trained in the first Village Pastors Training Program that are now much older, so we have begun discipling younger generations who will eventually take over churches and continue the work.
Loving your Neighbour
One of the most valuable lessons that has been learned in all these years is the importance of being part of the community.
Historically, churches in Bangladesh have mostly existed within the confines of the church building. This has led to the church’s lack of involvement and connection to their surrounding communities. Over the years, BBCF has developed this relationship through initiatives like Adopt a Village and now the church is taking responsibility for the people of Bangladesh.
One of the most valuable lessons that has been learned in all these years is the importance of being part of the community, and it is something we place great importance in. As a result of the love and care we have shown for the local people, we are appreciated and receive protection from these communities.
Vision for the Future
BBCF has grown to become a fellowship of 525 Churches with 800+ full time workers engaged in integral mission and ministry. The vision for the next 5-10 years will focus on church health and multiplication. We want our churches to continue to become stronger, grow and multiply. Our desire is for each of those churches to plant 1 church within the next 5 years. Some churches will of course plant more.
The BBCF is committed to planting locally led churches across Bangladesh, among the largest, least evangelized people group in the world. The harvest is plentiful.
In collaboration with our content writer, Jill Olazabal, this article was written by Leor Sarkar. Leor Sarkar is the General Secretary & CEO of our partner in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Baptist Church Fellowship (BBCF) is a denomination that is planting churches and meeting the physical needs of people in communities across Bangladesh.
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