My earlier posts from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship‘s General Assembly in Houston were mostly news oriented. Here are a few personal reflections on the meeting …
(1) Attendance was down, as expected, but not as bad as it could have been. I think it’s unlikely that CBF planners will set another meeting for the July 4 weekend, and for good reason. Still, more than 1,600 persons participated, which was encouraging, given the circumstances. As the host state and a fairly strong CBF state, it would have been surprising if Texas had not had the most registrants. As usual, North Carolina had the next hightest number present. Look for double the number of participants when the General Assembly comes to Charlotte next June 24-25. North Carolina clearly has the strongest state CBF organization, and will be good hosts. The location will make it easy for CBFers from surrounding states to attend, as well.
(2) Financial support for CBF continues to be disappointing. The Southern Baptist Convention‘s income is down a few percent for the year, and the North Carolina Baptist State Convention was down more than 15 percent through May, but CBF national’s income has been about 20 percent below the approved budget. Participants approved a $16.1 million budget that’s $400,000 less than the previous year, but officials noted that they’ll continue operating on 80 percent of approved expenditures unless income improves. For CBF supporters, that’s depressing.
(3) On a related note, I continue to be troubled by the lack of support for missions through CBF. In the early years, folks really rallied behind the missions program, in part because they saw it as a preferred alternate to the SBC’s International Mission Board, which had switched to a less holistic strategy that focused almost entirely on direct evangelism and church planting. In recent years, however, it’s been all CBF could do to support missionaries already on the field: almost all new appointees are either self-supporting or raise their own support directly. That was true of all six personnel appointed this year. It would be a great joy to see mission support increase so that other folks who are waiting in the wings can be appointed and get to the work they feel called to do.
(4) Evidently, planners listened to feedback from previous years: worship services (except for the missionary commissioning service) were a more reasonable length than in some past meetings, generally lasting a bit more than an hour. I continue to wish meeting planners would re-incorporate the missionary appointment into the Thursday or Friday night service. Having the service on Wednesday night, often at an alternate location, adds trouble and decreases participation. The service this year was well done and I enjoyed visiting the beautiful sanctuary of South Main Baptist Church, but perhaps twice as many could have participated if the commissioning had been incorporated into the main meeting.
(5) Overall, the meeting was uplifting and the fellowship, as always, was a blessing. Let’s hope next year’s meeting will be even better, and that CBF churches will commit to a budget that allows the organization to flourish rather than just maintain.
Coming up: I’ll be traveling in Israel with a group of students, alumni, and friends of Campbell University Divinity School for the next ten days. During that time I’ll be blogging when I can (hopefully daily) from the Holy Land, posting photographs and highlights from our visit. I hope readers back home can vicariously enjoy the trip with us. Those who choose to follow me on Twitter or RSS can get a notice whenever new blogs are posted.
Hummus and falafel, here we come!