Aho named to Thriving Congregations role, Perez begins work in strategic Global Missions position

March 23, 2021

By Jeff Huett

DECATUR, GA — Building on the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s greatest strengths in ministry and missions to help meet the most urgent needs of partner congregations and their communities, CBF announced today the addition of two staff members to new strategic positions.

A minister with a passion for the local church and designing for innovation has been named as CBF’s Director of Thriving Congregations. Christopher Aho, pastor of Oxford Baptist Church in Oxford, N.C., will join the CBF staff later this spring.

In February, Javier Perez began a new strategic role in CBF Global Missions as Director of Global Missions Programs and Impact. Perez most recently served with Buckner Children and Family Services as the regional director of strategic initiatives and program design for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Christopher Aho | Director of Thriving Congregations

Chris Aho

CBF announced in October 2020 that it had received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish a Thriving Congregations Initiative across the Fellowship. The aim of the national initiative is to strengthen Christian congregations so they can help people deepen their relationships with God, build strong relationships with each other and contribute to the flourishing of local communities and the world.

As the Director of Thriving Congregations at CBF, Aho will oversee CBF’s Thriving Congregations grant and work to adapt learnings from the grant for use in CBF churches. As a part of the grant and his work, he will seek to integrate techniques and skillsets from innovators across many emerging fields of study into congregational life.

Aho expressed his love for the local church, innovation and the Fellowship as he starts his work at CBF.

“For the last 21 years, I have had the privilege of serving four CBF churches and each one has affirmed that thriving local congregations are essential in fulfilling Jesus’ commission from Acts 1:8 to be witnesses to the ends of the earth,” Aho said. “As I begin a new chapter with our Fellowship, I hope my passion for local congregations, my interest in designing for innovation and my love for our CBF family positions me well to help us learn together how we might design a way toward thriving as congregations in an uncertain world.

“The future will not look like the past, and for many that will not be easy,” Aho continued. “However, as we lean into the qualities our Fellowship has already identified as necessary for thriving (Compelling Clarity, Holy Tenacity, Faithful Agility, Rooted Relationships and Dynamic Collaboration), I believe we will experience thriving in our local congregations, a more diverse Fellowship of believers, and a deeper experience of the Kingdom of God. For all of that, I am excited and grateful.”

CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley spoke about Aho’s unique qualifications for the role and the immediate work ahead.

“I am so pleased that Chris is joining the CBF Global staff,” Baxley said. “His first task will be to convene and coordinate the design of our Thriving Congregations Initiative to enable us to invite congregations and their leaders into cohort experiences to learn from one another toward thriving and faithfulness in their communities.

“His experiences as a minister on several church staffs and as pastor of two congregations provide an essential foundation for his ministry to our Fellowship,” Baxley continued. “He has unique gifts and preparation in his ministry and his academic work that equip him both to lead the design of this transformative initiative and then to oversee its implementation across our Fellowship most generously defined.”

Aho earned a Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School and a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Baylor University. He is pursuing a Doctor of Ministry from Duke Divinity School with a focus on leadership and Design Thinking. He and his wife, Natalie, have two sons, Cam, 13 and Finn, 5. Natalie has worked with CBF partners, including Baptist News Global, Alabama CBF and CBF of North Carolina and currently serves as program manager for The Baptist Commons at the Wake Forest School of Divinity.

Javier Perez | Director of Global Missions Programs and Impact

Javier Perez

Javier joined the CBF staff in February as the Director of Global Missions Programs and Impact. In this role, he provides strategic direction for Global Missions programs and strengthens organizational impact in accordance with CBF’s Mission Distinctives.

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, CBF works to cultivate beloved community, bear witness to Jesus Christ and seek transformational development among people and places otherwise forgotten and forsaken. CBF field personnel serve alongside congregations within three primary contexts: global poverty, global migration and the global church. 

With a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and a Master of Divinity from International Baptist Theological Seminary in Colombia, Perez brings a unique background to the Global Missions team. He brings a former focus on liberation theology in Colombia, where he experienced causes of poverty and injustice firsthand, as well as experience working cross-culturally with Buckner International.

Perez is passionate about uprooting structural causes of poverty and injustice while connecting CBF churches to Kingdom initiatives around the globe that provide the greatest impact return for all investments. He said that joining the Global Missions team at CBF is a missiological homecoming for him.

“I have long admired CBF’s focus on global poverty, global migration and the global church,” Perez said. “I am convinced that poverty and forced migration—these sub-human conditions in which the majority of humanity lives today—are more than marginal issues. Poverty and migration pose major challenges to every Christian conscience and therefore to the Global Church. CBF is uniquely positioned to respond to such challenges, and I am eagerly looking forward to working with our dedicated field personnel as they live out our commitments around the world and also with the Global Church as she embodies her prophetic voice.”

Steven Porter, CBF’s Coordinator for Global Missions, explained the importance of this role and Javier’s strong preparation for it. 

“The past year has underscored that change is constant and resources are precious,” Porter said. “The addition of the Director of Programs and Impact will help CBF be the best possible steward of our investments in Global Missions in a rapidly changing world. By increasing our capacity to evaluate the impact of field ministries and use that knowledge to resource our collective efforts toward greater faithfulness, this position will help us tell the story of God’s work through Global Missions in new ways.

“I can think of no better person than Javier to aid us in that work,” Porter continued. “His background in field service at the intersection of global poverty and global migration, graduate training in theology and public administration, leadership experience at Buckner International, deep ties to the Fellowship, and his own Latin American experience, position Javier to make an immediate impact in Global Missions.”

Javier and his wife, Aura, have two daughters, Shanti, 8, and Shiloh, 2.


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.

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