General CBF / Newsroom / Paul Baxley

‘Holy Ambition’ taking root across CBF, Baxley tells leaders at winter governance meeting

January 27, 2023

By Aaron Weaver

DECATUR, Ga. — “What if the ambitious way of thinking and feeling and acting that we see emanating from the heart of God took root in us?”

CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley posed this question to Cooperative Baptist leaders during the opening plenary session of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s winter governance meetings in Decatur, Ga., where members of the CBF Governing Board, Nominating Committee, Missions Council, Ministries Council and Foundation Board gathered January 26-27.

“Ambition is often associated with narcissism, and heaven knows there’s an epidemic of that,” noted Baxley, adding that St. Paul’s call in Philippians to put aside “selfish ambition” creates the possibility for an ambition that is not selfish—a holy ambition.

“What if we were overcome by God’s dream for the world? What if we were mesmerized by God’s ambition, so much so that it would not turn us loose? How different would we look and sound and feel and act,” Baxley asked.

“I want us not just to have a survival wish. I want us to be marked by a holy ambition,” Baxley said. “I am seeing holy ambition start to take root across our Fellowship already. I think that the vision that came from the discovery phase of Toward Bold Faithfulness was a foundation for our Fellowship to have a holy ambition. I think that mandate that came for us to no longer be content just being a predominantly white, southern, middle-aged Baptist community and instead to yearn to be a more diverse, more inclusive, more racially and ethnically representative community of faith planted with us a holy ambition.”

In the face of persistent challenge and exhaustion, Baxley emphasized that holy ambition finds its foundation in the resurrection of the crucified Christ. 

“What does holy ambition look like when people are just tired and want to give up? It has its foundation and the story begins like this: Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, they went to the tomb. The angel of the Lord descended from heaven, rolled back the stone, sat on it and said, ‘You remember Jesus who was crucified?’ You thought it was over. Guess what? That’s the source of holy ambition.”

CBF Moderator Debbie McDaniel

CBF Moderator Update

CBF Moderator Debbie McDaniel welcomed Cooperative Baptists to the winter meeting and spoke about her experiences visiting CBF congregations in recent months.

“These last few months, I have experienced diverse and meaningful community among new friends,” McDaniel shared. “I hope I’ve been encouraging to those met along the way because I’ve been energized by the people I’ve met and hearing the stories of our CBF field personnel and others who are making transformational differences in the lives of people I will never meet.”

Global Missions

The two-day gathering began Thursday with a worship service led by CBF staff. New CBF Global Missions Coordinator Laura Ayala preached a sermon titled “At the Table” and later brought greetings to the joint plenary session.

“I am looking forward to formally join a really, really great team of people extremely committed to God, extremely committed to missions that come from Atlanta, throughout the United States and throughout the world with our field personnel,” said Ayala, who officially begins her new role on February 1.

“What can I tell you about Global Missions? Well, we will continue to open missional opportunities for individuals and churches,” she said. “We will continue to encourage congregations to discover the joy and blessings that come by being or becoming a missional church, and we will accompany and equip churches as they invest in the kingdom through the Offering for Global Missions and support field personnel.”

CBF Global Missions Coordinator Laura Ayala

Updates and Reports

The joint plenary session featured reports from the chairs of CBF’s governance bodies, including Debbie McDaniel (Governing Board), Amy Cook (Nominating Committee), Ellen di Giosia (Ministries Council) and Tammy Snyder (Missions Council).

Carrie Harris, CBF Director of Fellowship Experiences, provided an update on planning for the upcoming General Assembly in Atlanta, June 28-30. CBF Congregational Ministries Coordinator Brian Foreman shared about the collaborative work staff engaging with CBF churches and clergy and lay leaders across the U.S.

Following the joint plenary session, the governance bodies convened separately and began their two-day working meeting. The winter meeting concluded Friday at noon. CBF’s governance bodies will meet again in-person at the General Assembly in Atlanta.


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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