Church starters and field personnel were commissioned Thursday evening.
FORT WORTH, Texas – On Thursday evening, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship commissioned eight field personnel and church starters as part of the Fellowship’s annual General Assembly, which has drawn more than 1,400 registered attendees so far.
“We stand with you tonight to give our blessing, our support and our commitment to pray for you, love you and walk alongside you through this awesome journey on which you are about to depart,” CBF executive coordinator Daniel Vestal told those being commissioned.
“You do not travel alone, as the Lord goes before you, behind you, and beside you, and as we ‒ through our prayers, our financial gifts, e-mails, phone calls, letters, care packages, visits, volunteer trips and advocacy for the most neglected ‒ take this journey with you as well.”
The new field personnel and church starters included:
• Andy and Jutta Cowie, Haiti; field personnel
• Andy Hale, Clayton, N.C.; church starter
• Jessica and Joshua Hearne, Danville, Va.; field personnel
• John Norwood, Houston, Texas; church starter
• Brickson Sam, Charlotte, N.C.; church starter
• Missy Ward, Uganda; field personnel
During the service, attendees gave $15,556 to the CBF Offering for Global Missions, which provides for the salary, benefits and operating and ministry expenses of fully-funded field personnel and member care, health insurance, technology support and travel stipends for self-funded personnel.
In a challenge to Fellowship Baptists, Phil Christopher, pastor of First Baptist Church of Abilene, Texas, talked about his church’s $5 million capital campaign for missions, which began in 2010. In addition to local ministries, the funds pledged through the campaign have enabled the church to partner with CBF field personnel, including Anjani and Jimmy Cole in Spain, Jeff and Alicia Lee in Macedonia and Caroline and Josh Smith in South Africa.
“Jimmy Cole grew up in First Baptist Abilene, and when we started talking about what it means to be a missional church, he took what we were saying seriously,” Christopher said. “He resigned as a successful pharmaceutical salesperson, sold his home and said, ‘Here am I, send me.’ Can you imagine? If we are going to talk missions in our churches; if we are going to commission field personnel; if we are going to tell the ‘old, old story’; our churches have a responsibility to make sure the resources are available when people like the Coles, the Smiths the Lees are called to go and tell the story of Jesus and his love.”
Attendees hear reports about on-going and new CBF ministries
The afternoon General Session, the first business session of the Assembly, focused on stories and updates on Fellowship ministries. These included:
• Following Rob Nash’s resignation as CBF global missions coordinator, Jim Smith will serve as the interim global missions coordinator beginning July 1. Smith is currently the director of CBF field ministries.
• Charles Ray, who has served as the CBF national disaster response coordinator since 2007, will transition at the end of year to a position focused on fundraising.
Through a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. and in partnership with the Center for Congregational Health, the Fellowship has created the CBF Fellows program, which is designed to provide support, resources and encouragement for individuals in their first years of full-time ministry. The first 26 participants in this program have been selected and were introduced to the Assembly.
• The proposed $12.4 million 2012-13 CBF budget was presented to the Assembly. This budget, along with the nominating committee report, will be voted on at the Friday business session.
2012 Task Force presents final report to Assembly attendees
During the Thursday morning General Session, members of the 2012 Task Force used videos, drama, diagrams, panel discussions, personal reflections and guided prayer time to present their final report to the Assembly. Attendees were also provided with printed copies of the full report, which can also be viewed online at www.thefellowship.info/2012taskforce
“The 2012 Task Force brings you recommendations today that weave together the hopes, dreams and imaginings of the Fellowship community,” said David Hull, chair of the Task Force and pastor of First Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala. “You have spoken, we have listened, and together we have tried to imagine a future filled with life and vitality for Cooperative Baptists. We are excited about sharing our proposals with you today.”
The CBF Coordinating Council approved the report last month in a special session. The Assembly will vote on the Task Force report during the Friday morning business session.
Hurst named CBF Advocate of the Year
The second annual CBF Advocate of the Year award was presented to Dick Hurst, a physician, Sunday School teacher and frequent mission volunteer with CBF field personnel, during breakfast Thursday.
“I’ve been with dedicated CBF workers in difficult situations,” Hurst said. “We who hold the ropes, as they say, need to hold the ropes a little tighter. Our field personnel need us.”
More than 70 advocates attended the event which featured Jim Smith, interim coordinator of CBF global missions, who took attendees on a tour of field personnel work around the world from the Middle East to Malaysia to North Africa to Kenya to Canada.
“We have doors that are opening that we are not able to go through right now,” Smith said. “We’re not challenging our churches. We need to ask more of churches.”
Chaplains, pastoral counselors
More than 80 people attended the luncheon for chaplains and pastoral counselors Thursday afternoon. Speaker David Gushee, director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University, talked about the sacred worth of every person as a moral value in the Christian faith.
Gushee said this value is affected by the size of kindergarten classrooms, the need for prison reform and attitudes about human rights during times of war. He answered question from the crowd, addressing topics that included future of genetic engineering and the preservation of human dignity in the technology age.
“It is still possible to see the cultural spillover that every life is scared,” said Gushee. “Every life has sacred value, no matter what they’ve done.”
McAfee professor reminds ministers of importance of peer learning groups
At the Peer Learning Group conveners’ breakfast, more than 75 people listened to Brett Younger encourage the gathering to not let their fire for ministry burn out. Younger talked about the importance of peer learning groups and how the groups can bring a newness to ministry that ministers need.
“If we don’t hold on to at least a little of the enthusiasm the Spirit sends, then we’re not following Jesus,” said Younger, the associate professor of preaching at the McAfee School of Theology. “God calls us to maintain some level of head over heels, fall down at his feet devotion to Christ.”
The comedic style of Younger’s delivery had the audience laughing, as he told stories from his own peer learning group.
There are currently more than 140 CBF peer learning groups across the country, with groups consisting of six to 12 ministers. The groups help foster ministerial excellence and a healthy learning network between pastors.
CBF partner organizations honor Texas state senator
At a luncheon hosted by the Baptist Center for Ethics (BCE) and the Christian Life Commission (CLC) of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, state senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) was honored by CLC for her legislative efforts to curb predatory lending practices in the state.
“Many people in Texas now have become consumers of payday loans … that trap them in a cycle of debt,” Davis said. “[We want] to see a difference in the lives of people so terribly impacted by this.”
Participants also viewed a documentary “Sacred Texts, Social Duty” focusing on taxation – an often “forbidden topic in houses
of faith” according to BCE executive director Robert Parham.
This complex issue “is both about the reform of the tax code and the reform and accountability of spending patterns in our government,” said CLC director Suzii Paynter.
ABP bestows lifetime achievement award on Druin
The annual Friends of Associated Baptist Press (ABP) Dinner was hosted by St. Patrick Cathedral, and featured a “thank you” to supporters and a recognition of the career contributions of Toby Druin, former editor of The Baptist Standard.
“ABP News is stronger and better today than at any time in our 23 years largely because of our friends,” said David Wilkinson, ABP executive director. “We are here tonight to say ‘Thank you’ to our friends.”
Current editor of The Baptist Standard Marv Knox offered a tribute of Druin, saying he was worth of the Greg Warner Lifetime Achievement Award because he was “an exceptional war correspondent” in covering the Baptist controversies of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever been a journalist, whatever that is,” Druin said. “I’m mainly a reporter and an editor, but most of the time, I was just the guy who got the paper out. I’m aware that the main achievement of a lifetime achievement award is old age, and I qualify. Thanks.”
The Assembly continues Friday with the final business session, workshops and Daniel Vestal’s final sermon at CBF executive coordinator. To read more about the Assembly, go to www.thefellowship.info/fortworth
CBF is a fellowship of Baptist Christians and churches who share a passion for the Great Commission and a commitment to Baptist principles of faith and practice. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.
The following writers contributed to this story: Patricia Heys, Ryan Higgins, Lance Wallace and Carla Wynn Davis.