It’s not enough for Christians to “walk the walk,” Fred Craddock told participants attending the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina’s (CBFNC’s) 2009 General Assembly March 20-21. “Somebody needs to talk the talk.”

Craddock, a retired professor who is perennially cited as one of America’s top preachers, spoke to an enthusiastic group of more than 1,000 registrants at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville. In two sermons packed with his trademark stories, he focused on the difficulty of hearing Christ’s message and the challenge of sharing it with others.

“The principle pain in hearing is that we just don’t want to hear some things,” Craddock said. “We avoid things we don’t want to hear because they might disturb us.”

One of those things, Craddock implied, is the verbal sharing of one’s faith, a practice he said many have abandoned by letting others’ distasteful misuse and distortion of evangelism silence their own witness.

Too many Christians buy into the idea that a vocal witness is not important and “words don’t mean anything,” Craddock said, when the truth is that “words mean everything.”

Christians should recognize that talking about important things is difficult, Craddock said, and pastors should help the laity understand that nervousness is a natural part of it. “Nervousness is the way the body honors the seriousness of what you are doing,” he said.

Evangelism was a recurring motif during the meeting, whose theme was “Use Words If Necessary: Embracing Authentic Evangelism.”

In a business session March 21, Executive Coordinator Larry Hovis cited five marks of maturity that he sees in the organization: CBFNC has proven itself to be the right hub for cooperation for moderate Baptists in North Carolina, he said, and takes a missional approach that focuses on ministries and spiritual formation rather than institutional survival.

In addition, Hovis said, CBFNC has accepted the challenge of its constituents to offer more and more ministries that are “appropriate for new century,” relates well to both aging members and younger Baptists, and remains “conservatively committed to traditional Baptist principles” while being progressively active in a variety of ministries.

Looking forward, Hovis said CBFNC will face a challenge of continuing to grow in resources, of remaining relevant to the constantly changing needs of the church and the world, and of keeping its missional focus a high priority, so the organization will “move forward as a missional fellowship and not an institutional bureaucracy.”

Participants approved an operating budget of nearly $1.2 million for 2009-10, up about $97,000, or 8.9 percent, from the previous year. With an estimated $1.6 million in additional giving through its Missions Resource Plan, total expenditures for the next fiscal year could top $2.4 million.

The meeting also featured 73 scheduled workshops on a variety of ministry-related topics. Worship music was provided by the Snyder choir and orchestra as well as the Snyder youth choir and its “New Way” worship team.

On March 20, a conference called “Elevating Preaching” was held in cooperation with CBFNC as an option during the afternoon workshop sessions. The event featured sermons in different styles from four North Carolina preachers and concluded with a dialogue session in which participants could ask questions of Craddock.


Tony Cartledge is associate professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School and contributing editor to Baptists Today, where he blogs.

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