1600 Baptists descend on Texas. Sounds like the start of a bad joke or a truly laughable party, right?
Last week, I had the opportunity to travel (along with Joe and Terri, David D’Amico and Barbara Spaulding) to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s annual General Assembly. En masse, we gathered to network. To worship. To hope. To acknowledge the Assembly’s theme drawn from Ephesians: it is because of God’s work within us that we are able to accomplish “infinitely more” than we could ask or imagine.
This idea of “infinitely more” echoed in the halls and hallways of the week.
Breakout sessions and workshops gave space for Fellowship Baptists to dialogue honestly about our inclusiveness, relevance, effectiveness, and capabilities to “be the presence of Christ in the world.”
Business sessions gave space for the presentation of a two-year comprehensive study of how to better organize our Fellowship to carry out its mission. (Admittedly, I was proud daughter in this piece of CBF life this year — my dad chaired the task force that did this good work!)
Times of worship through video, song, story, communion, liturgy, and proclamation gave space for us to acknowledge the way God has used the financial gifts of thousands of Baptists like us to transform the lives of the most neglected people around the world in Love.
The hallways, the gathering places, the local restaurants, and the hotel lobbies gave space for us to cement relationships formed through a common heritage but enabled to grow in ways that we couldn’t have imagined.
In my work with young adults, I regularly encounter people who couldn’t care less about our denominational connections (although they want to be sure who we’re NOT!). Nationwide trends show nearly all American denominations are on the decline. The 20th century’s grip on denominational life as the highest way to be Christians in large communities together has loosened. Denominations seem more often to warp the liberating gospel of Jesus than accentuate it.
So why is Highland’s work with CBF even important or valid?
Who would imagine that we would send eight of our young adults to work for CBF-affiliated ministries this summer, stretching from Louisville to Romania? Who would imagine that year after year, an increasing number of Highland’s children and youth are experiencing “life together” with each other AND the last and the least? Who would imagine that CBF theological schools and partner seminaries are calling and training our members to a life of ministry? Who would imagine that through CBF’s ministries, we have formed lifelong bonds with the people of Morocco?
Thanks be to the “infinitely more” God, who dreams bigger than we can and enables even us Baptists to do the hope-filled and transforming work of Love in this beloved world.