When I attended the CBF General Assembly at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Atlanta last week, I realized that the last time I had been in the hotel was December 1969 when I attended Mission 70, a program put together by six Southern Baptist Convention agencies that attracted 5000 college students and young adults.
With music written especially for the event, original drama, and speakers like Coretta Scott King and NBC commentator John Chancellor, meeting planners sought to engage a young adult generation that included both those immersed in social activism and those who were just on the periphery. We were challenged as Christians to take up the tasks of justice and reconciliation in order to make a difference in the world.
As a Vietnam veteran and a student in his final year of seminary, I was a bit on the edge of the action. I had a wife, one child and one on the way, and I was looking for a place to do collegiate ministry (what we called Baptist Student Union at that time). I was still wondering what shape my own ministry would take.
Many of my peers who were at that meeting eventually gave up on Southern Baptists in particular and Baptists in general. They went in a number of different directions, but the momentum for social change generated by Mission 70 stayed with them. Many did make a difference, but often outside the church.
Similarly, the calls to social action, justice, and reconciliation were all part of the 2014 CBF General Assembly and presented in several forums. We have come a long way, but there is still so much more to do.
This commitment to change the world is very attractive to the young adults that CBF is seeking to engage in its work. If CBF is to continue to be a vital “denominetwork,” we need new leaders, fresh ideas, and youthful enthusiasm. The leaders of Mission 70—people like Lloyd Householder and Ed Seabough—knew this was true. I think that the leaders of CBF and its partners realize it, too, and are investing in a new generation in an intentional way. Who knows where that will lead?