It is very encouraging to learn of the recent meeting of CBF partners and their conversation regarding the future of the CBF. As one who might not remain Baptist without this movement, I am glad to know that this dialogue is taking place.
Cecil Sherman’s death saddens many in the CBF community, but of course the grief is tempered by the joy of knowing where he is right now. The question remains for the rest of us as to where we are in our walk with God and missions involvement. Sherman represented the past of the CBF, a connection to the SBC wars for control of the denomination and the exodus into what we now appreciate as a relatively new movement for Baptists. We must always appreciate and remember our origins, but not be satisfied with codifying CBF as “we’re not that kind of Baptist.”
Churches in general are hurting, financially, numerically and otherwise. It is easy to get discouraged at the declining numbers due to death of our older members and the increasing difficulty in getting younger folks into the church building. Thom Rainer reinforced the harsh truth that millennials are not looking to the church as the primary avenue for their spiritual involvement and formation. What the means ultimately is that 30-40 years from now, there will be fewer churches able to keep their doors open because there won’t be enough who want to come through them. This recognition can create enough despair to keep young seminarians from entering pastoral ministry, let alone ministry in general.
Even with this gloomy forecast, it doesn’t have to be all bad news on the horizon. Churches must decide to invest in millennials and young families and determine new and create ways for meaningful witness. The gospel message still changes lives, and there is great power in personal testimony. This truth was reinforced at our recent CBF-MO event a few weekends ago. I was glad the meeting allowed time for mission projects and connection with the community.
My point that these are challenging times for churches, but with these difficulties come great opportunities. We can build walls of separation and to hide behind, or we can construct spiritual windmills and catch the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit. CBF is 2o years old this year, and this milestone offers an ideal time to decide how we are going to view our future.