The Tennessee Cooperative Baptist Fellowship held its General Assembly at Monte Vista Baptist Church in Maryville this past Saturday. This was the first meeting since Terry Maples became Field Coordinator of the organization and reflected well the priorities that he and the Coordinating Council have adopted to ensure the future of this organization: faith formation, mission opportunities, next generations and networking.
Rob Nash, Global Missions Coordinator for CBF, spoke at the closing worship service. Nash is an articulate and visionary leader. I first learned of him when I read his book An 8-Track Church in a CD World (I think it is time for a sequel—A CD Church in an MP3 World). Nash pointed out that this is a time of rapid change in missions and church life but he shared his optimism about the church’s ability to adapt. He appropriately cited Albert Einstein’s statement that “The kind of thinking that will solve the world’s problems will be of a different order to the kind of thinking that created them in the first place.”
Monte Vista Baptist Church was a good host, but the attendance at the meeting points out the challenges faced by TCBF in the coming days. Most of the participants (including myself) were over 60. A number of friends that I have enjoyed seeing at previous meetings were not there; they can no longer travel or have gone on to be with the Lord. Participation by members of the host church was limited. Fortunately, there were some young faces and some new leaders present. The Nominating Committee (or team) did a good job in finding new leadership. This attests to the fact that there is a younger generation that wishes to become part of the CBF community. I enjoyed the opportunity meet some of them and absorbing a bit of their enthusiasm.
Others who need to be involved were not there and for some there were good reasons. First, I know of at least four moderate churches that were doing mission immersion experiences on Saturday and one doing a visioning process. These are good things and attest to both the health of those churches and an awareness of what involves younger Baptists. Second, at this late date in the CBF movement, only a few pastors are willing to challenge their churches to embrace the fact that they are progressive congregations and need to find compatible partners in missions and ministry rather than clinging to the old ways of doing things.
Tennessee CBF has started down a promising path. We can only hope that Tennessee Baptists will recognize this and come along for the journey.