A belief in missions, including holistic social ministries as well as evangelism, has been at the heart of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship from its inception. In CBF’s early years, the mission program grew annually as more and more fully funded missionaries — which CBF prefers to call “field personnel” — were appointed.
That began to change shortly after the turn of the millennium. Though the number of people feeling called to serve did not drop off, offerings stagnated and more new personnel were required to raise some or all of their own support.
As registered participants gathered June 23 to commission 14 new field personnel, Sam Harrell, a 13-year-veteran of mission work in Kenya, noted that while 77 of CBF’s field personnel are funded, 51 have to raise most of their own funds — and that no fully funded personnel have been appointed since 2005.
In stating the obvious, Harrell pointed out that the shift is directly due to declining mission gifts, and appealed for greater generosity just before ushers collected an offering for the missions effort.
Earlier in the day, there was good news, as CBF of North Carolina presented a $100,000 matching gift toward the global missions offering. CBFNC’s income exceeded its budget for the past fiscal year, and during the CBFNC meeting in March, leaders challenged churches and individuals to contribute more to global missions, promising to match everything received between then and the Tampa meeting, up to $100,000.
The churches raised more than $239,000, executive coordinator Larry Hovis told participants at the North Carolina meeting on Thursday afternoon. He then presented CBF missions coordinator Rob Nash with a representative check for the $100,000, making a total of more than $339,000 contributed through CBFNC churches during the past three months.
In a sermon during the commissioning service Thursday evening, Nash said he believes God is shaking things up and changing paradigms of how missions are to be done in the 21st century. Whereas Baptists in the past were very good at raising money to send other people to do missions, a new ethic has emerged in which churches and individuals want to go, not just send, he said. They want to be more personally active in sharing the love of Christ in the world.
The future of missions, Nash predicted, will be less about sending agencies and more about networks of churches and personnel coming together in collaboration to go on mission in the world: to work together in communities joined by passion, and to embrace the work “fully, boldly, and compassionately.”