By Aaron Weaver
ATLANTA — “Yesterday’s trusted models of witness no longer produce the results they once confidently promised, which raises important questions about the models themselves,” said Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s new Global Missions Coordinator Steven Porter Wednesday night at the banquet and commissioning service that kicked off the 2014 CBF General Assembly.
Noting repeatedly that “these are interesting days for the Fellowship,” Porter said “we are entering an era of the global church in which faithfulness to God’s mission requires us to narrow our focus, deepen our capacity and stretch our faith in new ways we haven’t imagined yet to do a few things well in Jesus’ name and trust the other work to other capable hands.”
Porter noted the centrality of cooperation to Baptist approaches to mission and emphasized the continued importance of this aspect of the Fellowship’s identity.
“Our field personnel are best understood as partners of the churches God has sent into the world,” he said. “We encourage. We innovate. We learn. We connect. We coordinate. We resource. We walk alongside. But we do not supplant.”
Porter called on Cooperative Baptists to pursue God’s mission and take the opportunity to “reimagine mission,” a project he said “sends us back to our original sources of inspiration — the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures.”
“We need a revival, yes; but it is a revival of our imaginations, a renewing of our minds…rather than a mere recovery of zeal,” he said.
He suggested that the oft-repeated appeal for renewed zeal represents a greater faith in the familiar than a willingness to follow God into unfamiliar territory.
“We, Cooperative Baptists, do not need vaunted rhetoric so much as a resolve to rethink mission in local congregations and in mission contexts here and abroad,” Porter said. “We need to begin a new conversation on mission together.”
He said the old methods, models and structures of past years can no longer be counted on our current era of a global church.
“We now need to recognize a new day for CBF Global Missions and to align our strategies and structures with the vision of the 2012 Task Force and change accordingly,” Porter said.
“We need not only to reimagine mission, but we also need to re-narrate the story of CBF’s participation in God’s mission that involves both long-term cross cultural missions and short-term mission trips; both traditional big steeple churches and small intentional radical communities – even 24 mile long communities, global church ministry networks and state and regional organizations; the Baptist World Alliance and ecumenical bodies; publishers and press agencies; educational institutions and mission communities; fully-funded field personnel and partner-funded field personnel,” Porter said.
Preaching on the 10th chapter of the Book of Acts, Porter explained that while the chapter depicts the conversion of Cornelius, there is another important conversion that takes place — Peter’s conversion to realize the fullness of God’s mission (which included Gentiles like Cornelius).
“Acts 10 presents us with a continuing conversation of mission,” Porter said. “It’s not that Peter’s comprehension of it has changed. He is converted. His mind is renewed. His faith is stretched, and he is transformed. Are we, Cooperative Baptists, open to such a continuing conversation in our lives?”
Porter concluded, saying “as we begin a new conversation on mission, may the triune God grant us a scriptural imagination to see the world differently and join with the Holy Spirit in the renewing of all things for the salvation of the nations and to the glory of God.”
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.