By Doyle Sager
Happy 25th birthday, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship!
Thank you for providing First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, Mo., a place to be authentically Baptist. Like most congregations, we have endured some challenging times. Our break from the Missouri Baptist/Southern Baptist wasn’t a sudden death; it was more like a slow, agonizing estrangement leading to ultimate divorce. It was made especially painful because our church is located just two blocks from the Baptist Building (MBC headquarters).
Even when I came to First Baptist as pastor in 1997, we still counted at least 40 families whose members found employment at the MBC (or who had recently retired from there). But that old denominational bond gradually frayed, strand by strand, year by year. The official break came in 2006. This month marks the 10th anniversary of the action by the MBC to dismiss us from its membership.
Like many of you, we have found a wonderful home with CBF. We have shared mission trips, advocacy work, children’s camps, student weekends, spiritual discernment retreats, disaster relief work, peer learning groups, general assemblies and so much more.
You can imagine our delight that CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter will be speaking in our morning worship services this Sunday, Oct. 23. What an honor for us and what an opportunity for Suzii to share her vision of God’s future during this CBF celebration week.
FBC JC is currently in the midst of a visioning and implementation process. We actually find ourselves on a parallel journey with CBF.
Like the Fellowship, we love freedom — not just for ourselves, but for all of God’s people. And just like CBF, our congregation is passionate about gender and racial equality. We also share with CBF a joy in being part of something small and struggling (more humility, less hubris). Furthermore, our FBC JC family shares with all of you a commitment to radical grace. Everyone is welcome — with no asterisks — we really mean everyone!
We love the twin gospel emphasis of spiritual salvation and social justice. In other words, we believe that Luke 4:18-19 and John 3:16 were equally close to Jesus’ heart. Because of this, we are much more engaged in our community and much more incarnational in our witness. Our congregation loves the fresh sense of mission which defines us and our Fellowship home. Our people are currently enjoying an entrepreneurial approach to ministry. We are free to innovate. We are free to fail.
Like CBF, we don’t know exactly where the wind of God’s Spirit will blow, and that’s okay with us. We’re enjoying the ride. Let’s just call it a 25th birthday joy ride!
Doyle Sager serves as the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Mo. Join First Baptist and other churches and individuals from across the Fellowship in celebrating 25 years of CBF October 16-23. During this week, Fellowship churches and individuals will set aside intentional times of celebration to honor CBF’s 25th Anniversary. Through special worship services, mission projects, Bible studies, state and regional gatherings and other special events, this CBF Celebration Week will be an opportunity for Cooperative Baptists across the country and around the world to thank God for the past 25 years and look forward to our future as a Fellowship. Resources are available at www.cbf.net/cbf25.