The cost of discipleship as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Baptists is a call to a radical lifestyle, full of uncomfortable places. This is not a message that today’s American church is following.
Oh yes, there are a very few people who sacrifice their careers, all their finances, and their comfortable positions of prestige for global missions, but count them on one hand in any CBF church.
In the beginning, CBF used words like “fresh,” “radical,” “a new paradigm in missions,” “transparent.” We reminded ourselves that our movement came from the Anabaptist Radical Reform movement. We saw ourselves as grassroots and free-church Baptists, not the top-down authoritarian institutionalized form we grew to be as SBC Baptists.
Look closely at our movement. Growth in new people is gone. Growth in sending missionaries has stagnated for at least 10 years. Many (if not most) CBF-related churches are not increasing their financial support and give dually to the SBC.
Our senior citizens are the ones who provide the main support for CBF. Legacy giving and regular giving generally comes from the “builder” generation. There is no energy for CBF among young adults or even middle-aged adults.
It’s the same old same old. Unless we get radical again, we will be just another Christian organization waiting for the economy to pick up so we can grow again. Who wants that?
I was there in the beginning. Among missionaries, we were radicalized again to try something fresh, to actually learn the languages of the indigenous people groups to whom we were sent, to think and visualize across the man-made/national borders and see the whole people group.
We’ve lost that. In contrast, we have CBF leaders whom we fear we might lose if we pay them less than $100,000 per year, plus benefits. The big names were deemed necessary to our struggle. Even missionaries, whom many of us consider to be making sacrifices, now need long-term benefit plans, investments and a salary that equals the needs of 15-20 national pastors.
Where has that gotten us? It looks very much like we take care of “our own” first. Most of our money is spent on “us,” not on those whom we serve. Look at our national CBF budget and at the developing state budgets. Where does most of the money go? Is that radical?
OK, so radical discipleship is not for everybody. However, it should be for most of us. It plays out in lack of sacrifice and the suffering lost world suffers even more. We would rather ask our churches to send us on a week-long mission trip, at the cost of $2,000-$3,000 per person, than to send that amount to a national pastor, who could live on it for a year.
Definitely, we need a volunteer or two to “go and see” and then come back in order to energize our home churches, but what we must have more of are families who are willing to serve on mission fields and the corresponding churches who will give everything to send them there.
CBF doesn’t sacrifice anymore. We have become a feel-good exercise in psychology and political correctness, another good old boy network.
In Luke 12:31-34, Jesus requires radical sacrifice from most of us or we will miss the Kingdom of God.
Is that us anymore? Do we really want to stay that way?
Kevin Rutledge of Harrisonburg, Va., and his wife, Jan, were pioneer CBF missionaries to Prague, Czech Republic.