Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tony Campolo Interview

This afternoon I had the privilege to spend about 20 minutes on the phone with Tony Campolo. The Baptist General Convention of Missouri is in the midst of a several month study process to devise a new strategy plan for the next five years for the organization. A part of that process involves interviewing key leaders engaged in innovative ministries. I requested the opportunity of interviewing Dr. Campolo and he was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer several questions regarding leadership and ministry. I've long been an admirer of Dr. Campolo since I first heard him in person at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Buenos Aires where I served on the faculty. Dr. Campolo came as the keynote speaker for our annual conferences. During his visit, my wife and I had the opportunity of hosting him in our home one morning for breakfast. He obviously is a fascinating man with a deep passion for holistic ministry to the poor and needy.

While all of his answers were insightful and will prove helpful in our strategy planning process, one response in particular stood out. When asked to identify risks or dangers confronting his organization's ministry, he replied that he worries about the tendency toward secularization. That is, with his organization involved in a wide variety of social ministries aimed at meeting the needs of the poor and oppressed, he fears and fights against the temptation to get sucked into the purely secular side of that effort, given that the biblically prescribed holistic mission they attempt to fulfill also demands a focus on evangelism and sharing the gospel to meet the spiritual needs of the lost. I commented in response that I suspected he had received a lot of criticism from the religious right about not being evangelistic enough, and he graciously replied that he was grateful for that emphasis and those who would hold him and his organization accountable to the task of evangelism.

I think I might have mentioned previously after hearing Dr. Campolo again this past spring at the Baptist Border Crossing event in Kansas City that he excels in the art of prophetic preaching that is designed to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. He surely has a gift for the latter. I'm very grateful for the chance to have spent a few minutes with him on the phone this afternoon and count it a blessing from the Lord.