June 22, 2016
By Carrie McGuffin and Aaron Weaver
Greensboro, N.C. — “Making us be able to hear the Gospel and preach it is hard work,” Emory University homiletics professor Tom G. Long told more than 2,400 Cooperative Baptists during the opening night of the 25th Anniversary CBF General Assembly in Greensboro, N.C.
“It takes Jesus the liberator to do it.”
Citing the Gospel of Mark and the story of the healing of a deaf and blind man, Long, who serves as Emory’s Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching and Director of the Early Career Pastoral Leadership Program at Candler School of Theology, offered reflections on the human condition. He emphasized that we are all this blind and deaf man. This deafness, Long explained, is that we cannot hear the Gospel, and when we cannot hear it, we in turn cannot speak it.
“I know what it would take for me to hear the Gospel,” Long said. “It would take a miracle — and that is what we get. That is why Jesus encountered the man that is deaf like me and mute like me.”
This hard-working Jesus, Long added, is the Jesus characteristic of the Gospel of Mark — one who is sweating, grunting, pushing and pulling, and one who is opening ears and eyes, rebuking and denouncing, exorcising demons in every situation and tearing against the chaos of powers and principalities. These same powers and principalities that Jesus faced are those we face today as we see the “manifestation of hades [rip] through our history” with chaos and tragedy all around us. These are the moments churches and leaders are facing, with a need for a hard-working Jesus, Long said.
“You are all involved in ministry. You’re involved on good ministry, but you are involved in hard ministry too. Your ministry is up against the powers and principalities. But the one who is working the very hardest is Jesus Christ, walking alongside us every day saying ‘ephphatha’ — be opened.”
The Wednesday evening worship also featured a welcome from CBF of North Carolina Executive Coordinator and Larry Hovis and his daughter and incoming CBF Missions Council member, Lauren Hovis, as they reflected together on the foundation and future of the Fellowship. Attendees to the very first meetings in Atlanta in 1990 and 1991 which birthed CBF were recognized by the crowd. Larry Hovis paid special homage to John and Jeanette Cothran, who have attended every single CBF General Assembly as well as the two meetings in Atlanta.
Gathering around the theme of creation, the table was set before the Assembly in preparation for worship, focusing on creating space to gather and create fellowship around the table and fostering grace through God’s love.
“The Table — the place we come with now and not yet — with the weight of the world, with the questions, with our theological deconstructions,” said Molly Brummett-Wudel, co-pastor of Emmaus Way in Durham, N.C. “We come knowing that even when we do not have the strength to bring ourselves to the Table, the community around us will carry us and will have faith for us. …It is at the Table where an offering of creating grace through God’s love rests.”
The emphasis on community gathered around a table of grace is a theme that will guide the Fellowship during the 25th Anniversary year: “Christ’s love compels us.”
Following a video celebrating healthy churches, a prayer and blessing was offered for CBF congregations and pastoral leaders. This focus on healthy churches directly aligns with one of the goals of the 25th Anniversary campaign — a $12 million campaign that will serve to nurture young Baptists, sustain Global Missions and form healthy churches. The offering during the Wednesday evening worship service will support this campaign as it formally launched Wednesday at the Assembly. Please consider giving a gift at www.cbf.net/give.
CBF Governing Board member Charlie Fuller, who serves as minister of congregational life and administrator at Second Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., shared with the crowd why he and his wife, Cindy have made a commitment to support the 25th Anniversary campaign.
“My wife, Cindy, and I believe strongly in the historical values of the priesthood of the belief, the autonomy of the local church, and the separation of church and state.” Fuller said. “Therefore, our choice was not difficult. We were going to be Cooperative Baptists and we have been since the beginning. CBF matters to my wife and I because CBF matters to the Kingdom of God
“Could it be that CBF is uniquely positioned at this juncture of American Christian history to be a means of bringing Jesus to a new and ever-changing culture? Could it be that Cooperative Baptists, because we were born questioning top-down thinking, are uniquely positioned to be that very means. I think the answer is yes.”
CBF is uniquely positioned to be the presence of Christ for a nation and world that are seeing God in a whole new way, Fuller said.
“That’s why Cindy and are I are making what is, for us, a sacrificial gift to the CBF 25th Anniversary Endowment Campaign. This endowment will help to secure the future of CBF for literally generations to come. Not so that we can preserve yet another institution, but so that we can participate in the unique contributions that CBF will make in partnering with God to bring his Kingdom to earth.” To learn more about the 25th Anniversary campaign visit, www.cbf.net/cbf 25.
The Wednesday worship service concluded with a time of congregational singing and an affirmation for the future of CBF led by former long-time CBF staff member Bill Bruster and Corrine Causby, who was a CBF Vestal Scholar in 2014-2015.
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.