By Aaron Weaver and Carrie McGuffin
The Missions Council of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is meeting this week in Decatur, Ga., to continue its work of vision casting and focusing on the work and future of CBF Global Missions.
During the two-day meeting this week, council members and staff heard reports from Global Missions Coordinator Steven Porter as well as reports offering updates on finances, field personnel, church engagement and Together for Hope, CBF’s rural poverty initiative.
“I am convinced that it is so much better, the work that we are undertaking, because of all that you have done,” Porter told the council. “We wanted to have many voices around the table, which you are a part of, and we are seeing the fruit of that.”
Porter also reflected on new challenges that have presented themselves in a world that has experienced heightened violence this year, and encouraged the council and the larger Fellowship to keep CBF field personnel in their prayers as many are working in high-risk areas.
Missions Council Chair Alan Sherouse, who serves as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C., expressed his gratitude for council members who have been working diligently toward a refined Global Missions enterprise.
“We are doing something as a result of that which hasn’t been done in 25 years,” Sherouse said. “We have the opportunity to take what we have been doing so well for so long and think about it with intentionality.”
Jim Smith, director of global networks and development for CBF Global Missions, provided an update on field personnel who have had recent transitions, highlighting field personnel additions to the Internationals Europe Team serving in Spain and the Southeast Asia Team serving in Cambodia.
Lori Irons-Crenshaw, CBF’s Global Missions personnel selection manager, offered an update on the diverse student personnel that served in 2015 through Student.Go, CBF’s student missions initiative. Fifty students served in 2015 at 35 sites alongside field personnel in the United States and around the world.
Council members also heard an update on Together for Hope. Stephanie Vance, who serves as the manager of Together for Hope, expressed her excitement that those involved in the 20-year initiative are continuing to do great work engaging in community development in 20 of the most low-income counties in the United States. As Together for Hope continues to move into the future and beyond its 20-year commitment, leaders will be taking part in a CBF Dawnings retreat to focus on forming, visioning and engaging together for their future work.
Vance noted that there are other states and regions with rural counties facing persistent poverty that could create new and expanded opportunities for community development, and that the Together for Hope leadership council is beginning to explore these opportunities alongside community stakeholders.
CBF Church Engagement Manager Ryan Clark reported on the 86 mission teams throughout the Fellowship that volunteered nearly 55,000 hours serving in 14 countries and regions in 2015. He also highlighted the other means of church engagement with CBF and CBF field personnel through hosting a mission speaker and giving to the CBF Offering for Global Missions.
Sam Harrell, a longtime field personnel who now serves as the associate coordinator for CBF Global Missions, shared in a time of interview about his life growing up in Africa and serving as a field personnel for many years alongside his wife, Melody, in Kenya. Harrell offered stories of their work and commitment to community development in the place that was their home for so long. You can learn more about Harrell and his ministries experiences here and here.
In January 2015, an ad hoc committee was formed to support the strategic planning process that the Missions Council launched in September 2014 in conjunction with the CBF Global Missions staff and chaired by Paul Baxley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Athens, Ga., who also serves as a member of the CBF Governing Board. The purpose of this ad hoc Committee on Global Missions Structures and Staffing (CGMSS)—the first collaborative venture between two of CBF’s governance structures, the Governing Board and Missions Council—is to shepherd through the Governing Board any personnel policy and funding matters that emerge from the strategic planning process to ensure seamless planning and implementation.
At its most recent meeting in September 2015, the Missions Council unveiled CBF Global Missions’ new mission distinctives to focus the missiology of the Fellowship. CBF field personnel are living out the following commitments alongside CBF congregations: Cultivating Beloved Community, Bearing Witness to Jesus Christ and Seeking Transformational Development. CBF field personnel live out these commitments within three global contexts: Global Poverty, Global Migration and the Global Church.
Find photos from this meeting of the CBF Missions Council here.