June 30, 2022
By Carrie Harris and Aaron Weaver
DALLAS— “There’s no ditto in Christianity. We are uniquely different, beautifully different, wonderfully different,” said Dr. Ralph West, pastor of The Church Without Walls in Houston, Texas, as he brought the Word during the closing worship service of the 2022 CBF General Assembly.
“Have you ever noticed in a careful reading of the Scripture that God doesn’t do any two things in natural creation exactly the same? Come and see tonight that there is even a difference in the infinite creativity of God and how he calls us to serve him, how he meets us,” West said.
Focused on the scripture of John 1:35-51, West called on Cooperative Baptists to consider three types of people, whom God meets in different ways and in different places.
“Come and see the different ways in which God encountered us,” West said. “The text is tailored to teach us that there were some that were already looking for something good and later discovered something or someone better.”
The two disciples initially named represent the spiritually hungry, he continued, as they were looking for something “good.” These disciples of John the Baptist had found something good in the preacher wandering the wilderness.
“Their curiosity, their thoughtfulness had been satisfied and they were asking life’s big questions,” West said. “But while they were with John, this bizarre Baptist that was out preaching, one passed by and John said ‘behold, the Lamb of God.’ And at that moment they left what was good because they had found someone better. Then they would discover that all of life’s questions would be answered in him.”
We, too, find ourselves in the same place as these disciples, West explained—where we’re looking for something good, hoping that something better will come along at something that is better.
“And one day, something good would give weight to something that was a whole lot better,” West said. “You found out the answer was not wrapped up in any accomplishments or achievements. It was in a person. And that was Jesus Christ. You see, that’s one of the messages that we invite people to come and see, and that is always to remind them that there is something good, but there is someone that is better.”
There is also another group whom Christ meets—and these are the people full of potential possibility. Telling the story of Jesus’ encounter with Simon Peter, West noted this disciple’s nature of unpredictability, unreliability—but that Jesus said he saw something in him.
“Jesus says that I see something in you. I see a potential that can become a reality in you. I see that you can become rock sturdy and stable,” West said. “And I’m telling you, it took some time to get Simon to rock status.”
God sees something.
“Come and see. When God sees us, he sees not just potential, but possibility and promise and reality. And he sees it in a way that he says that I want you to see what I have put in you. And there are some here tonight.”
Then, West said, there is another type—the Philip type—those that are a bit clueless.
“Notice what God does with Philip,” he said. “Every time you meet Phillip, it is almost a picture of inserting foot in mouth. He appears about five times through the gospels. But the ones that we remember the most is how clueless he is. We really remember in the upper room, when Jesus laying out the entire program of how to access the Father. I mean, that is a drop-the-mic moment. And yet it is this clueless, dull, unpredictable that turns around and says, ‘could you show us the father?’ Then he said, ‘when you have seen me, you have seen the Father.’ And yet God looks for these kinds of people.”
It is in the moments we find ourselves feeling like John’s disciples, Simon Peter and Philip, that we can know we are still seen by God, West explained. We are seen by a God who takes away the sins of the world.
“All who come—whether one is looking for something good; hopefully they find someone that is better. All that have potential, not yet reality. And yet God unlocks that reality for them. Or the clueless who find their way or the sin that becomes confesses of Christ. They all have one thing in common,” West proclaimed. “And in these words from John, ‘behold, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.’ Do not trust the sins in your heart, or other sins, institutional—structural—that need to be addressed because humanity makes up those systems. And so, behold, the God who takes away the sins of the world.”
Service of Commissioning
The 2022 General Assembly concluded with a service of commissioning for new CBF field personnel, chaplains and pastoral counselors.
Citing the focus scripture of Psalm 66—“Come and See”—CBF Endorser Renée Owen spoke to the ways that the 860-plus active CBF-endorsed chaplains and pastoral counselors enter their specialized settings of ministry where they “enter and see,” hear and experience the stories of people who are hurting, frightened, grieving, and searching for God’s presence amid moments of crisis trauma, loss and at times celebration.
“These clergy men and women have said ‘yes’ to following Jesus, offering the ministry of presence and hope through chaplaincy and pastoral counseling,” Owen said. “What an honor it has been to journey with our Council on Endorsement this past year to invite 33 new ordained clergy into the CBF Chaplaincy & Pastoral Counseling Ministries Family as we endorsed gifted and compassionate, professional and clinically trained chaplains and pastoral counselors to serve in these specialized settings, serving as an extension of our local congregations and communities, sharing God’s love and the hope of Christ, living out their call to care for all persons.”
Owen shared that since the Assembly last gathered in-person in June 2019, CBF has endorsed a total of 87 chaplains and pastoral counselors.
“We bless these chaplains and pastoral counselors to carry forward the work of compassionately companioning and journeying alongside others, demonstrating their commitment to meet people where they are in their physical and spiritual journey, offering skilled emotional, spiritual and pastoral care during sacred life moments.”
During the service, CBF field personnel Christine, who serves in Lebanon, and Hannah Turner, a Global Service Corps member serving in North Carolina, were recognized. Christine and Turner were appointed to Global Missions field service in 2020.
Elket Rodriguez was commissioned as a newly-appointed CBF field personnel on the United States-Mexico border.
“Tonight, we live out an example that was given to the early church in the Book of Acts, when the church sent out the first missionaries,” said CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley. “Tonight, our Fellowship commissions these and in commissioning you we charge you to offer all the beautiful and unique gifts that God has given you to cultivate beloved community, bear witness to Jesus Christ and seek transformational development.”
“This is a sacred event,” Baxley continued. “In laying hands on these and inviting all of you to pray, we are going to invite our Fellowship to make the commitment to presence to pray faithfully, give generously, to care deeply, to connect our congregations to the beautiful ministries of these we set apart tonight.
“So as we come into this posture of prayer tonight, we set apart three to engage all of us, and in setting apart three to engage all of us we say we are in it for the long haul. God has invited three and the Holy Spirit is equipping three and is equipping all an the risen Jesus seeks to work through all of us to transform the world. Will you enter?”
Watch the video below to learn more about the CBF field personnel Christine, Hannah Turner and Elket Rodriguez.
Find news coverage, photos and videos from the 2022 CBF General Assembly 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.