January 29, 2016
By Jeff Huett
DECATUR, Ga. — As others scale back or focus exclusively on short-term missions, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is doubling down on its commitment to the long-term presence of field personnel around the world in a comprehensive restructuring plan for Global Missions announced Thursday.
The new plan, the result of 18 months of work led by CBF’s 15-member Missions Council and including input from staff, field personnel, CBF state and regional leadership, and other stakeholders clarifies the vision of CBF Global Missions and addresses its present sustainability and future growth, while creating equity among its field personnel.
Under the current model, some field personnel raise a majority of their own support while others are funded primarily by CBF’s Offering for Global Missions. The new plan creates a sustainable funding model that consolidates all CBF field personnel under a single employment category with equitable funding.
- Offering for Global Missions for Presence: The annual Offering for Global Missions will secure the long-term presence of all CBF field personnel by funding their salaries, benefits, housing costs and children’s educational needs.
- Partner-Support for Ministry: All CBF field personnel will raise partner-funded support primarily from friends-and-family networks to support their personal ministry operating budgets. This includes everything from ministry materials to capital costs and travel — namely, everything except costs to sustain their “presence” in the field.
- Endowment for Innovation: Global Missions will adopt an intentional strategy to grow its pre-existing, unrestricted endowment to fund mission innovation and stabilize CBF’s mission budget over time. The first priority for endowment funding will be the launch of a redesigned Global Service Corps, which was CBF’s former two-year service opportunity.
CBF Global Missions Coordinator Steven Porter said that the church and the world that the Fellowship’s 20th century denominational mission structure served so faithfully no longer exist.
“These shifts have presented CBF with an opportunity to recommit ourselves to God’s mission as individuals, as congregations and as a Fellowship,” Porter said. “After more than two decades of Christian witness in 30 countries, CBF stands convinced that there are no shortcuts to making ‘disciples of all nations.’
“Whether translating the Bible into a previously unwritten language or resurrecting hope in rural America, the transformation we seek requires patience, incarnational witness with others,” Porter said.
As part of the restructuring plan, CBF will implement growth strategies that challenge the Fellowship to explore new approaches to cooperative mission beyond traditional models of mission sponsorship, including the development of deeper relationships with congregations and global partners.
- Church Engagement: CBF Global Missions aspires to be the premier mission partner of CBF-affiliated congregations. Building on its strong identification with the missional church under former CBF Global Missions Coordinator Rob Nash, CBF Global Missions will adopt a consultancy model that leverages the experience of its field personnel and staff to strengthen the witness of local churches in their own backyards and facilitate their work around the globe.
- Global Church: Latin American theologian Samuel Escobar observes that we live in an age when Christian mission is “from everywhere to everyone.” CBF Global Missions seeks to deepen friendships with Baptist Unions and other Christians around the globe, in order to share the gifts God has given and receive gifts from others that will help the Fellowship reach cultural diasporas in its own communities.
Governing Board member Paul Baxley, who serves as senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Athens, Ga., and chaired the ad hoc Committee on Global Missions Structures and Staffing, emphasized that the committee came away with a clear call to re-commit to the long-term presence of field personnel serving around the world during its year-long discernment process.
“For more than a year, our Missions Council, in collaboration with field personnel, Global Missions staff, state and regional leaders, congregational ministers and lay leaders, has been engaged in an intense process of spiritual discernment related to our Fellowship’s participation in God’s mission in the world in the present and the future,” Baxley said. “The result of their careful, prayerful and steadfast efforts is a compelling vision for our Global Missions efforts. Now we have the opportunity to embrace that vision and live into it faithfully, sacrificially and joyfully.
“In an era when so many Baptists and Christians are moving mainly to short-term mission strategies and partner-funded approaches to sending missionaries, in our discernment process we have heard a clear and unmistakable call to recommit to long-term presence.”
To implement the plan, the ad hoc committee, which included representation from the Governing Board, Missions Council, state and regional organizations, field personnel and a former interim CBF Executive Coordinator, developed three policies, each which passed the full Governing Board on Friday.
The policy on the Offering for Global Missions set forth that CBF will continue to receive an annual Offering for Global Missions and will encourage affiliated congregations and others to contribute funds each year through a special emphasis and/or through budget allocations. It also clarifies that “when field personnel visit churches, their priority will be encouraging support for the Offering for Global Missions.”
The second policy, which will be included in the Field Personnel Guidebook, states that “all field personnel will be required to raise the amount of their annual, approved ministry budget (including funds for emergency use) from partner sources.” They will also be provided in-person training, coaching and time away from the field to fulfil the requirements of the policy.
According to the policy, CBF’s proven model of partner-funding for ministry expenses focuses on friends-and-family networks, but field personnel also may receive support from other sources, including organizations, foundations and congregations. Beyond their approved ministry budget, per the policy, field personnel will raise partner-support for emergency purposes held in a reserve fund designated for use by the field personnel to whom the funds were pledged. Once the funds in that bank reach the maximum threshold set by the administration of CBF Global Missions, additional funds are freed for ministry.
Finally, the Governing Board passed a policy that will govern the establishment of partnerships in Global Missions that promote and facilitate deeper ties between global Christians and CBF’s core constituency. Friendships between the Global Church and CBF-affiliated congregations can provide essential cultural and linguistic support to churches that lack the skills necessary to reach cultural diasporas within their own communities in the United States. CBF Global Missions seeks to foster relationships characterized by reciprocity, generosity, transparency and accountability.
Alan Sherouse, chair of the CBF Missions Council and senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Greensboro, N.C., said that he sees the fulfillment of long-standing hopes and visions of Cooperative Baptists in this doubling down on the Fellowship’s commitment to the long-term presence of field personnel.
“The work of our Missions Council and complimentary committees has been done with gratitude for the many who have gone before us,” Sherouse said. “I hope those who have supported the missions enterprise of CBF for 25 years will recognize in this plan some of the best parts of their hopes and visions.”
Linda Jones, member of the ad hoc committee and missions coordinator for CBF of North Carolina expressed her excitement for this new day for CBF Global Missions and the larger Fellowship.
“This is such an encouraging and exciting time for all of us as Cooperative Baptists,” Jones said. “Heading into the future with a new structure will empower our field personnel and engage our churches more deeply in mission and relationships. It is a new day for CBF, a day with clarity of purpose as we share God’s love together.”
CBF is a Christian Network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support.The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.