June 29, 2022
By Aaron Weaver and Carrie Harris
DALLAS — Cooperative Baptists were invited to testify and “press on through the fire together” during the opening worship service of the 2022 CBF General Assembly held virtually and in-person in Dallas.
Courtney Stamey, senior pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Clinton, Miss., preached from the Assembly’s focus scripture of Psalm 66, emphasizing the necessity of testimony.
“This is a service of testimony because we need a testimony this evening,” Stamey said. “We need a sacred space to leach out the poison of pain, to celebrate the presence of the Holy Spirit, to confess our doubts and concerns, to lament, to cry, to sing, shout out and praise. We need it so we can truly know, deep deep in our souls, what remains.”
Psalm 66 is a testimony, Stamey said. “It is a beautiful weaving of individual and community testimony creating a crescendo of glory to God. It is a tapestry which tells a story so true that it is as if past and present blend together. It is a testimony of the ancestors of our faith, somehow spring up in us to give us dry passage through the water and fire of our lives.”
Stamey highlighted several ways we have been tested and tried over the past two years from the “apocalyptic” pandemic to racial injustices to political division to the rise of Christian nationalism.
“The thing that’s been stirring in my soul is, have all of us good Christian folks concerned about what’s been going on with us in the midst of it all,” she said. “Have we testified to one another about what we’ve been through, about the dreams we’ve dared to dream, about the nightmares that have woken us up in a cold sweat, about the noondays when all we could do was fall to our knees and ask—God help. Tonight, I suggest that we submit ourselves to the purifying fire of testimony so that we may discover what remains.
“Where has God’s steadfast love showed up for you,” Stamey asked attendees, challenging Cooperative Baptists to “reflect and remember.”
“In what ways has God been good to you,” she asked. “In what ways have you been brought low. Where have you experienced the real power of the Holy Spirit? Have you lost someone, something, your faith? Did you see the church be the body of Christ?
We can’t testify alone, Stamey said. Testimony takes courage, community and ears to hear it.
“Testimony is honest. We feel like the psalmist feels sometimes,” she said. “I’m not sure we can get to the steadfast love of God until we are vulnerably honest….Testimony is the unparalled beauty of reality. You—we—are a resilient people and we remain because God’s steadfast love remains with us and in us.”
“In the midst of our trials, God is with us all along—God’s very presence remains,” Stamey added.
“Let’s be honest in our testimony,” she continued, noting there over the last two years there were “times we turned on each other and there were wolves that scattered us.”
“There were times we ignored need or the prophetic path for the sake of self preservation,” she said. “There were times we were tempted by things other than God’s steadfast love.”
Stamey called on attendees not to confuse the dross for the silver, the wheat for the chaff. “This is not what remains,” she said.
“A body of Christ more welcoming, more affirming than we could have ever dreamed it would be. A body of Christ concerned about the pain of others. It is a body of Christ willing to recognize its privilege. It is a body of Christ challenged by justice. It is a body of Christ more agile, a body of Christ that can respond to where God is calling us next, not where our budgets are leading us. It is a body of Christ more willing to hear the calling of the Spirit, a body of Christ willing to be imaginative like the Creator.”
“This is what remains—us, remade, renewed, reformed into what we were intended to be all along.”
What is your testimony, where have you truly experienced God’s steadfast love, Stamey asked.
“Be honest, forthright, real. What remains? We do. The silver sans the dross. We remain because God’s steadfast love remains and refuses to let us go. We remain a body of Christ. Let’s press on through the fire together.”
The worship service also included testimonies shared by diverse voices from across the Fellowship and a time of prayer of confession and invitation to communion led by CBF ministers Ryon Price, Kan’Dace Brock and Brittany Stillwell. Devontae Powell, a pastor from Flint, Michigan, offered the benediction.
Update and Prayer of Intercession for Ukraine
During the worship service centered on Psalm 66, Assembly attendees heard an update and prayer of intercession for Ukraine from Kyiv-based field personnel Gennady and Mina Podgaisky.
The Podgaiskys have served as CBF Global Missions field personnel in Kyiv, Ukraine, for the past 20 years. They returned for scheduled leave in December 2021 and have been unable to return until the war ends.
“Every day all over Ukraine, the sirens sound for people to go to the bunkers,” the Podgaiskys said. “There are still rockets and missiles falling into major Ukrainian cities. Most of the people whom we got to know and ministered to in the last 19 years cannot sleep in their homes and are now in at least 11 different countries.”
The main building of Village of Hope, the Podgaiskys’ foster family center, was destroyed in the war and all the buildings on the property have damage from shelling, they shared.
“We have a big job ahead of us to rebuild Village of Hope and to help the people of Ukraine to rebuild their lives,” the Podgaiskys said.
Cooperative Baptists have contributed more than 1.1 million dollars to CBF’s Ukraine Relief Fund, which is being used to help Ukrainians that evacuated the country and those that stayed behind, they shared.
“We want to thank the people, churches and partners that have prayed for Ukraine and for us,” they said.
Listen Well, Dream Big, and Trust the Spirit
Earlier in the day, Cooperative Baptists gathered around tables during the Wednesday morning plenary session of the CBF General Assembly, with the challenge to meet new people and engage in conversation around using church facilities in bold ways.
CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley welcomed attendees, calling them together to challenge and equip each other in this new format for a plenary session around tables.
“There is amazing grace in being together again as a Fellowship,” Baxley said. “The Holy Spirit has invited us into this space. Let us unleash the power of the Fellowship this morning in a new way.”
Brian Foreman, who will begin his work as CBF Coordinator of Congregational Ministries in July, then led the Assembly in conversation, inviting participants to share their personal experiences.
“Too often we only recognize the sanctuary or chapel as sacred,” Foreman said. “I wonder if we begin considering the entire facility as sacred, will we find new ways to serve God and love our neighbors in and through these sacred spaces.”
Throughout the morning, Cooperative Baptists heard stories of six congregations exploring and practicing creative ways to utilize their sacred spaces.
Representatives from First Baptist Church in Mt. Olive, N.C., River Road Church, Baptist in Richmond, Va., Snyder Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C., Bayshore Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., Iglesia Bautista Victoria en Cristo in Fort Worth, Texas, and Providence Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., shared around themes of “facilities as assets,” “facilities for mission” and “facilities for spiritual formation.”
Through talk with peers around tables, Cooperative Baptists had the opportunity to equip each other through listening well, dreaming big and trusting the Spirit.
Foreman concluded the conversations challenging the Assembly to continue to dream big with their congregations and communities as they return home.
“Opportunities surround us,” he said. “When we pay attention, we see ways God is moving and inviting us to participate. I pray that this morning you have heard people dream big dreams and small ones to join God in God’s activity in this world. I pray that you felt a spark of that missional imagination fire in your belly.”
The plenary session concluded with a motion from the Governing Board for amendments to the CBF Constitution and Bylaws. Proposed amendments can be found here, and action on the motion will happen during the Thursday morning plenary on June 30 at 9:30 a.m. Central. The Fellowship will also act on motions around the Nominating Committee and Governing Board recommendations and the proposed 2022-2023 Mission and Ministries Budget.
Register for free to virtually attend the 2022 CBF General Assembly and find news coverage, photos, videos and more at www.cbf.net/assembly.
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.