By Emily Holladay
ATLANTA — More than 800 people gathered Wednesday night at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta for a banquet and commissioning service for Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel, church starters, chaplains and pastoral counselors.
In preparation for the commissioning, CBF chaplains, church starters and field personnel shared their own stories. Andy Hale, a church starter in Clayton, N.C., who was recently named to oversee CBF’s Church Starts Initiative, reflected on creating his church community, Mosaic of Clayton.
“Our greatest achievement has been the organic process of building community with one another,” Hale said. “From its inception, Mosaic has centered on creating a place of belonging for those who are seeking it. As people, we experience belonging through our mutual love for one another. We also create opportunities for each person to take ownership in the community through serving.”
Bo Prosser, CBF Coordinator of Organizational Relationships, and Gerry Hutchinson, CBF Endorser for Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors, led the commissioning of church starters and newly-endorsed chaplains and pastoral counselors.
“These individuals who stand before you tonight are representatives of a larger group of chaplains, pastoral counselors and church starters within the life of CBF who have been endorsed and who have planted new work,” Prosser said. “We formally recognize the call of God upon each of these uniquely gifted individuals, and we celebrate your courage to be endorsed and to venture into new congregational settings.”
The Fellowship commissioned five chaplains and two church starters, Kyle Tubbs of Grace Baptist Church in Round Rock, Texas, and George Linney of Tobacco Trail Church in Durham, N.C. Additionally, in the past year, CBF added 30 individuals to its family of more than 700 chaplains and pastoral counselors.
Partnering with CBF as a church start, Tubbs and a core group began meeting in the summer of 2012 and launched Grace Baptist Church in early 2013. Grace Baptist’s vision is to impact Williamson County, Texas and beyond by encouraging reconciliation and redemption of all creation. The new church’s mission is to be a Christ-centered community that is engaged in intentional worship, spiritual formation and holistic ministry.
Linney and his family started Tobacco Trail Church in May 2010. The church has witnessed an outdoor worshiping community that has grown organically over the past four years as they continue to welcome members in their outdoor, athletic and recreational context. Known in the community as the “running church,” TLC gathers for worship along a 6.5-mile recreational trail in south Durham each Sunday afternoon.
Celebrating the call to mission service
The Fellowship also commissioned three field personnel units during the banquet celebration, Scarlette Jasper, who serves in Somerset, Ky.; Janel and Phil Miller-Evans, who serve in St. Petersburg, Fla.; and Brooke and Mike, who will serve in Southeast Asia. CBF Global Missions Coordinator Steven Porter and Jim Smith, who has served as interim Global Missions coordinator over the past two years, led the commissioning of these new field personnel.
“God has called. Your communities of faith have nurtured that faith and affirmed your call, and you have responded,” Porter said. “We are sending you out in the power of the Holy Spirit to invest your lives in the work of Christ. We stand with you faithfully and fervently in the work to which God has called you.”
Smith then continued the commissioning of field personnel.
“Recognizing your sincere calling to mission service, your fitness for that service and the promise of partnering churches, family, friends and the larger CBF family to support your ministry, we officially commission you as ministers of the Gospel for service in God’s kingdom.”
Upon commissioning, Jasper now joins CBF’s Together for Hope initiative as a rural poverty advocate in Somerset, Ky., one of the nation’s poorest counties located in the Appalachian foothills of Southern Kentucky. Jasper works with individuals and families suffering from financial and medical crises, victims of domestic violence as well as homeless men and women in Somerset.
Janel and Phil Miller-Evans direct the Micah Center of Pinellas County in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Micah Center is an outgrowth of the ministry of the Church of the Beatitudes, a CBF partner congregation where Phil has served as pastor for the past 11 years. With his ministry experience and Janel’s background in social work, the team will advocated for, educate and assist families who are underemployed and in need of affordable housing.
Brooke and Mike will move to Southeast Asia in September to serve on CBF’s Arts, Advocacy, Development and Education Team. They have served in Southeast Asia before individually, and return as a couple to be the presence of Christ in a community where Christians make up less than 10 percent of society. Brooke and Mike hope to go in CBF’s partnership model of service working alongside local leaders to wage peace.
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.