DBU Hosts 21Wilberforce "Speak Freedom" Conference

Speak Freedom

 21Wilberforce, a Christian human rights organization dedicated to defending the universal rights of religion, belief, and conscience for all people, recently held its annual “Speak Freedom Conference” on the campus of Dallas Baptist University. The conference revolved around the theme of equipping Christians to become transformational leaders and advocates for justice in all walks of life.  

Randel Everett, former Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, is the Founding President of 21WilberforceIn a conference session, Everett provided a clear overview and practical steps of what it looks like to be a transformational leader who is used by God for others. Using Kousez and Posner’s book The Leadership Challenge, Everett emphasized modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act, and encouraging the heart. These principles are timeless, and Everett stressed the need for Christians to continually find practical ways to live them out. 

From 2 Timothy 2:2, Everett also explained that we must always be thinking toward the future to the fourth generation, looking to train those who will train others who will train others and so onFurthermore, he shared that to follow someone willingly, people must believe the leader is honest, forward-looking, inspiring, and competent. “Competence is a requirement for emergent leaders to be able to lead with excellence,” he said. “Good leaders continue to be good learners.” He used Martin Luther King Jr. as an example who modeled the way of leadership founded on credibility. 

Ultimately, Everett pointed to God as our leader. “Christian leaders have a Kingdom assignment from God, he said. Since we believe that God is God and that the Bible is His Word, we are now expected tpractice what we preach, walk the talk, and be consistent with our words. 

In another session, a panel of experienced Christian leaders shared their testimonies of becoming involved with advocacy for justice and shared insights for how local churches and laypersons can get involved.  

Suzii Paynter, CEO of Prosper Waco, started her advocacy work as a teacher at Baylor Universityhelping prevent the passing of Texas bill that would have done away with Colleges of Education. She trusted the Lord that he would take the few "loaves and fishes" in her basket to multiply them, giving her an idea that resulted in the rejection of the bill and her involvement in drafting an Education Code that every elementary teacher in the state of Texas is certified under.  

Following this, Suzii became involved with advocating for other social issues on behalf of Baptists in her work with the BGCT’s Christian Life Commission, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and the Baptist World Alliance.  She encouraged those gathered to meet other leaders, to build relationships, and to pray with and for elected officials 

“The source of our advocacy needs to be the source of mission, Paynter continued. Pastoral leaders must study the heart of their congregations and begin advocacy there, viewing advocacy as part of their mission, which requires long-term presence and investment, learning the language and culture to build relationships, and to speak openly from a conviction of the Lord’s leading 

Dr. Gus Reyes, who now serves as Director of the Christian Life Commission, echoed the emphasis on building relationships and used the story of Jesus’ healing of the Centurion’s son in John 4 as instructive to the process of advocacy, which includes: recognizing a need, taking responsibility for a solution, and acting with humility towards those in authorityWhen advocacy succeeds, Dr. Reyes encouraged celebration of victory, but if a “no” is given, strategies must merely be recalibrated and more appeals made.  

In conclusion, Everett urged all in attendance to find their role in advocacy and to have confidence, knowing that we serve the Lord of the heavenly hosts who is with us wherever we go. 

Written by Brooks Anthony

Brooks Anthony writes for the University Communications department at Dallas Baptist University.