By Terry Maples
I vividly remember sitting around a big table at First Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., as the marketing firm guiding the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s re-branding process made a presentation to the Movement Leadership Team (state and regional coordinators). The phrases forming together and partnering to renew God’s world that emerged from the intensive study of the CBF movement jumped out at me. Subsequent conversation with my colleagues helped me realize CBF’s newly articulated “Big Idea” linked very naturally to my years as a local church educator.
Then it hit me! We needed a resource to unpack the branding work in order for it to compel and propel us into the future! My conviction that day in Decatur began a two-year writing assignment that resulted in Reclaiming and Re-Forming Baptist Identity.
Other factors influenced my decision to work on this book for CBF:
- Gene Wilder, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Tenn., wrote an excellent resource reflecting upon Southern Baptist life. Gene graciously consented to the inclusion of his work to introduce the streams from which Baptists come and to highlight the values and convictions left behind when the SBC became a different denomination under fundamentalist leadership. Gene’s work provided helpful background for “Reclaiming and Re-Forming Baptist Identity.”
- Nurturing Faith communicated interest in publishing the book; Bo Prosser supported the effort in myriad ways; CBF agreed to sponsor the book.
- The idea of releasing this resource as the other “bookend” for CBF’s 25th Anniversary Celebration appealed to me. The first “bookend” released at the 2016 kick-off was a collection of personal stories from a variety of folks in CBF life. My book celebrates the freedoms we preserved and looks forward to ways CBF can continue to form beloved community.
Every factor is important, but what inspired me most is my love for CBF and my passion to see Fellowship churches thrive. I believe CBF’s path forward depends largely on our capacity to form faith in Jesus Christ for the sake of the world and our ability to nurture partnerships for reconciliation, justice, and peace. We need new wineskins and innovative approaches; institutional think and the same old ways of being and doing church no longer get the job done!
By design, Reclaiming and Re-Forming Baptist Identity is NOT prescriptive, i.e. “Do these five things and your congregation will be spiritually healthy and vibrant.” Instead, the book’s purpose is to encourage us to wake up to realities around us, to become more responsive to movement of Holy Spirit, to re-form our congregations around the life and ministry of Jesus, to lift up key values like hospitality and compassion that evidence transformation, and to major on love and grace. Because of the contextual nature of congregational ministry, we cannot expect “one size to fit all.” My hope is, however, that suggestions and ideas found in this CBF resource help nurture a faith formation mindset in individuals and faith communities alike.
Reclaiming and Re-Forming Baptist Identity invites dialogue and discernment. Questions at the end of each section of the book encourage group discussion.
Order a copy of Reclaiming and Re-Forming Baptist Identity by Terry Maples and Gene Wilder at Nurturing Faith.
Terry Maples is coordinator of CBF Virginia