In this second blog reflecting on the recent Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in Greensboro, NC, I want to share some personal impressions related to trends that seem to be emerging in the movement. This is not meant to be definitive or even objective, but just some things that seem to be bubbling to the surface.
First, leaders of CBF are being good stewards of the resources placed in their hands. The national organization is now leaner and more focused. This comes not only from necessity but from good management principles. One example is the three emphases of the 25th Anniversary Endowment Campaign—sustaining global missions, forming healthy churches, and nurturing young Baptists. These are key aspects of the future of the movement.
The sustainability of a global mission strategy empowered by long-term mission personnel was presented repeatedly at the meeting. Missions is what got many people into the Fellowship and it must remain a pillar of its work. CBF field personnel have learned how to partner with churches, other missionary sending groups, and indigenous personnel for effective ministry. This must continue.
Nurturing young Baptists assures the future of the Fellowship. In my humble opinion, CBF has given lip service to this emphasis without allocating adequate resources during the last two and half decades. Yes, there have been projects and efforts to engage young adults and youth but not enough. What has been provided has produced positive results. For example, the significant attendance of young adults at the Assembly, but the seminaries must get some credit for this as well. More resources need to be focused on theological education, church internships, and scholarships.
Forming healthy churches includes a church starting initiative, an intentional congregational renewal process, advocacy work that helps others find their voice, and financial literacy programs. All of these are worthy goals, but finding ways to work with churches without recreating the old denominational dependency model is tricky.
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, there is a clear effort on the part of CBF to deal with economic issues. Whether it is helping ministers to deal with financial indebtedness or ending abusive pay day lending operations, economic advocacy is a core concern in our culture and I applaud CBF for addressing it.
Another trend that I find encouraging is the development of an environment of empowerment based on coaching. CBF entities have employed coaching in a number of ways—CBF fellows, church starting, etc.—and this trend is growing. This harnesses the gifts of those involved in the coaching process to find their own answers and pursue them with accountability and purpose.
Overall, CBF continues to make strides in creating a “denomi-network” that is nimble and proactive. This was clear in the General Assembly’s program and emphases.