About thirty years ago, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia began forming. I write “began,” because several seminal dates are mile markers on our journey.
First, on November 11, 1991, after the annual meeting of the Georgia Baptist Convention, interested individuals gathered for an initial conversation about what such an alternative organization could look
like. Second, on March 28, 1992, at Mercer University, an estimated four hundred persons convened to launch this fledgling missions and ministry organization, with Ches Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church, Tifton, serving as moderator of the gathering.
Charles Walker, pastor of First Baptist Church, Jasper, made the motion “that this group of Baptists organize themselves into the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia.”
Finally, on November 9, 1992, at First Baptist Church of Christ at Macon, Ches Smith called to order the first official gathering of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia. Within the span of a year, late 1991through late 1992, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia was birthed, launched, and commissioned to do mission and ministry in Georgia and beyond.
2022 is a year of celebration for CBFGA, and in three decades of ministry and partnership, we have much to celebrate! This year’s issues of Visions magazine will focus on areas of our work that are vital for congregations and individual supporters, including youth and collegiate missions, partnerships with CBF field personnel, theological education, congregational mission and ministry, and in this issue, ministerial support and transitions.
In all these areas and more, the staff and leadership of CBFGA collaborate with congregations and individuals to provide connection, support, and sharing of resources so that the work of God among our tribe of Baptists continue to flourish. Though our mission of three decades remains the same, much of our method has changed.
When CBFGA was born in 1992, the internet was merely a dream. Now we have internet capability almost everywhere, from our kitchen appliances to our cell phones. In 1992, if you even had a cellular phone, chances are it was a “bag phone” that plugged into your cigarette lighter in your car.
Now cell phones are as ubiquitous as fried chicken at a Baptist Sunday evening covered dish fellowship.
Speaking of Sunday evenings, in 1992 most of us went to church two or even three times a week, with Sunday evening holding a prime place on many a church calendar. Speaking of calendars, in 1992 we used printed calendars or day planners. As we have become more tethered to technology, our calendars now are probably accessible via our computers or our ever-present phones. And don’t get me started on how we now watch church or sermons or anything else.
In 1992, we would use our VCRs — still innovative technology in some circles! — to watch VHS tapes of church services or movies or old sporting events.
All of these changes — the advent of the personalized internet and mobile communication, our connection to technology, and our visual media consumption — have a direct bearing on how our congregations function now and will function in the future.
Changes have dramatically transformed how congregations approach ministerial transitions. If your church is calling a pastor, it is a safe bet that you could find sermons the person has preached online. It is another pretty solid bet that you would be able to find information about candidates through social media platforms. And communications are usually emailed now, at least initially.
The methods of doing the work of church functions like Bible study, worship, committee meetings, or even pastor search team meeting have changed since our founding in 1992. Even the ways CBFGA gathers churches and individuals from our state have changed. Our vision and mission, however, remain the same: to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God given mission by being the presence of Christ in our world today.
There is still much work to be done but, at least for this year, we’re celebrating that our Lord has surely brought us safely thus far. We are grateful that you have joined with us in this good and holy work. We look forward to the mission and ministry still ahead for us and pray you will join us there, too.
In this issue of Visions, we focus on the work of ministerial transitions and the support that CBFGA provides congregations and ministers. If you or your congregation is in a season of transition, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll see how we can walk through this process together.