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Listening and Learning

By Brian Foreman

The first six months serving as Coordinator of Congregational Ministries could be summarized in two words: listening and learning.

At first, much of the listening was done with my ears, through one-on-one conversations, video calls and focus groups. As opportunities to travel, gather, preach and visit began to fill up the calendar, so did my recognition that to truly appreciate the stories I was hearing, I needed to do what Malcolm Gladwell suggested in his book Blink.

So, “I began to listen with my eyes, and there is no way that your eyes don’t affect your judgment. The only true way to listen is with your ears and your heart.”

At General Assembly I listened with my ears and heart to the late-night worship with the CBF Pan African Koinonia, the commissioning of chaplains (including a service dog) and the sounds of a Fellowship singing together.

In the fall, I listened with my ears and heart to CBF Fellows, pastors and congregational leaders talk about the day-to-day joys and frustrations of ministry. I listened in hallways, sanctuaries, over tables in fellowship halls and in car rides around many of your communities. It only seems fair that I mention a few things I have heard.

  •  The last few years for the Church in America have been hard, including many CBF churches. But there is a resilience that has grown from these experiences. There is a sense that you, as Fellowship people, are moving forward in faith towards the vision God has given you for your communities. One pastor, lamenting the smaller numbers, leaned in to make sure I heard and felt his next words: “While we may not fill the sanctuary the way we once did, the people who are here are all in. We are and will continue to be strong, courageous and dreamers of big dreams God has provided.”
  •  The growing diversity in CBF is cause for great joy and faithfulness—from the calling of our newest CBF colleague, Laura Ayala, as Coordinator of Global Missions, to time spent in Puerto Rico with a group of pastoras building community as they seek to support one another and thrive in ministry.
  •  Many are finding new and creative ways to respond to ministry callings in your communities by examining your capital and the very blessings of God in your midst. The Sacred Spaces resource and the work of Thriving Congregations is challenging each of us to rethink the whys and hows of our ministries. You are using your property and buildings in new ways that seemed unimaginable 20 years ago.
  •  Young Baptists are finding places to serve in our Fellowship. In recent days, I listened as pastors and deacon chairs praised the contributions of young people in the life of the church, from outreach, pastor search teams and various other roles. They are bearing witness to faithful expressions of serving God. They are also being encouraged to lean into God’s calling.
  •  One last word of encouragement comes from the experience of parachuting in and out of congregations and communities. Your Congregational Ministries Team has the privilege of seeing and hearing the amazing work and the people that make up the Fellowship. Your expressions of being the people of God, fighting for justice, sharing the love of Jesus in hard spaces, finding creative ways to minister to children and families during a pandemic, becoming Encourager Churches for our field personnel, and simply continuing to show up for one another, are all tremendous faithful expressions of the people of God.

We will continue to listen with our ears and our hearts about how we can serve your congregations and how we can partner together in the inviting, equipping and transforming work of God. We welcome invitations to join you in worship and be in your community. We welcome the chance to be present for you in minister search processes, by providing spiritual formation resources, and in discernment work as you take your next most faithful steps.

I am excited about the work ahead of us as a Fellowship and about how God is using each and every one of you. I am excited about both learning about your ministries and learning from you as you remain faithful to the holy ambition God has set before you and before CBF.Brian Foreman serves as Coordinator of Congregational Ministries for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Connect with Brian at bforeman@cbf.net.

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