For congregations to thrive and Christ’s mission among us to flourish, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has entered a season of discovering where God would focus our work together. Take CBF’s online survey about your church and your personal ministry aspirations before Feb. 2.
This devotional is part of a series in January that tells stories of “Bold Faith” written by CBF field personnel and members of a team composed of clergy and laity from across the Fellowship who are leading of process of prayerful discovery that will result in a faithful response. Find out more about this process called Toward Bold Faithfulness.
By Karen Birdwhistell
Margaret Mead is credited with saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Is there a better illustration of such a group than the simple account of a prayer meeting by a river that is recorded in Acts 16?
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. (NIV)
She persuaded them. Another translation goes as far as saying she insisted. What a bold woman! But Lydia was not only bold, she was also open to responding to the message, and then she immediately took action. No wonder Lydia was a successful church planter!
The church I attend, Living Faith Baptist Fellowship in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, is 15 years old this month. Sometimes I think about how our church started and realize what a crazy thing it was to do. The likelihood that it would last, that we would ever actually be what any of us thought a church should be, was highly unlikely. At the time, however, we didn’t really think there was anything else we could do but to start a church. I think we really did feel compelled. God told us to start a church, so we did.
It was a bold time for us. A summer and fall of informal gatherings and Bible studies in living rooms and backyards led to our first formal worship service in the loading dock of a carpet store in the middle of January! One of our members sewed sheets to hang across the walls so the loading dock would look more like a church. A couple of months later, we moved to a rented space in an office building, and the sheets from the loading dock, along with PVC pipes, became the walls between our Bible study classes on Sunday mornings. We had to start doing the things that churches do: hire a pastor, buy a building, then rent a space again so we could sell the building in order to build another building.
Since that time, we have had periods of growth, but we’ve also experienced more than one setback. While we thought we knew a lot about what church should be, God has continually stretched our minds and our hearts to show us what church could be.
In CBF, we are endeavoring to embark on a time of Bold Faithfulness. What does that look like? Perhaps we can take a page out of the little we know of Lydia in Acts 16—a worshiper of God, willing to listen and respond to God’s call, and who when she felt compelled by God to action, did not hesitate. May we all be a people of such a bold faith, a people that can indeed change the world.
Karen Birdwhistell is a retired early childhood teacher, elementary principal and literacy coach, and also serves as part of the Discovery Team for Toward Bold Faithfulness. Don’t hesitate and join us in responding boldly to CBF’s online survey today at www.cbf.net/survey.