Featured / Paul Baxley

God’s Holy Work of Equipping

By Paul Baxley

To read the New Testament is to discover the powerful truth that the Triune God has always and everywhere been equipping the church for faithful ministry, especially in challenging times. Even before his death and resurrection, Jesus promised his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, who would remind them of everything he said and give them everything they needed. On the Day of Pentecost, when the church was born, the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples and equipped them with the gift of speaking in many different languages. Paul’s letters celebrate all the ways the Holy Spirit gives believers the gifts we need to do what God wants us to do. Yes, God is at work equipping the church for faithful participation in the life of Jesus in the world.

CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley

I believe our Fellowship is called to join God in this holy work of equipping. Just as the Triune God has invited us into this community of congregations and individuals for the sake of Christ’s mission in the world, the same God is drawing us into the divine work of equipping one another for bold faithfulness so that we can participate in Jesus’ transformation of the world. We heard this call to join the ministry of equipping loudly and clearly in our Toward Bold Faithfulness process several years ago, and we are beginning to live into this summons more fully.

Our CBF Global staff, in dynamic collaboration with CBF’s state and regional coordinators and partner ministries, are committed to equipping congregations and leaders. We are living into this commitment through new resources like Seeing Through the Eyes of Jesus; Amplify; Sacred Spaces Innovative Places; and a suite of Bible studies related to our mission distinctives. A revision of our Dawnings process is actively underway and when released in 2023, it will be a remarkable gift to congregations seeking greater clarity about calling, vision and ministry. We are building other collaborations and resources to help congregations with financial challenges and ministerial transitions.

All of these resources and initiatives have arisen through active collaboration across the CBF community to provide new means and greater access to relationships that faithfully join God’s work of equipping congregations for even more faithful ministry.

We are coming to discover that equipping is not just about the provision of resources. It is even more about the elevation of relationships and the creation of experiences through which congregations and leaders can learn from one another. We believe that the most powerful kind of equipping is mutual.

Over these past several years, for all of their challenges, our congregations and leaders have been bold, innovative and creative in the most faithful ways. God’s creative power has been unleashed among us. So, we believe that every congregation and every leader has gifts to offer the rest of us, and we believe that we all need to be part of this community of mutual equipping. We made space for such mutual equipping in the roundtable conversations at General Assembly. Our brand new Thriving Congregations initiative will create learning cohorts of congregations thanks to a generous grant from Lilly Endowment. We have already discovered that mutual equipping for mission occurs when congregations and field personnel are drawn into vibrant Encourager Church relationships.

Over this past year, I’ve had the gift of participating in the leadership of CBF Fellows (a cohort of ministers in their first call), a group that has contributed in powerful ways to my ongoing equipping for this ministry, even as they have equipped one another. In the days to come, we will seek to cultivate more ways for congregations and leaders to teach one another, encourage one another and provoke one another on toward love and good deeds, as the preacher to the Hebrews teaches us.

This vision of mutual equipping is an embodiment of our Baptist commitment to the priesthood of all believers. And, it becomes more compelling as our Fellowship grows. The Holy Spirit is inviting more congregations and individuals, who come from outside the Southeast, who speak different languages, who have participated in a wide range of Baptist communities and who reflect an increasingly beautiful diversity of race and ethnicity, into this Fellowship. As more congregations and individuals come, our capacity to learn from one another will be dramatically expanded as we listen, trust, learn and love.

God has always been in the business of equipping the church for faithful ministry. We cannot wonder if we will be given what we need. The story of our faith is that God is always and everywhere pouring out gifts. The question instead is whether we will use what we have been given and join in God’s holy work of equipping. Doing so will not only transform us but prepare us to join God’s transformation of the world.

This article first appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of fellowship! magazine. Check out the issue and subscribe for free at www.cbf.net/fellowship.

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