Cooperate, Cooperate, Cooperate – Let’s Cooperate! Paul Baxley’s Six Stop Texas Tour

This week I attended a breakfast gathering featuring Paul Baxley the newly elected Executive Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The event is one of six Texas stops designed to introduce Baxley to Texas Baptist. It was sponsored by Fellowship Southwest and my friend Mary Knox.

This excellent event was hosted by Wilshire Baptist Church. And an added treat for me was sharing the breakfast table with my son Chad, daughter-in-law Heather, and granddaughter Jimmie. They attend Wilshire Baptist where Heather serves as Minister of Missions and Advocacy. 

Baxley’s after breakfast comments quickly established his theme for the morning as well as his greater vision for the CBF, a network of some 1,800 like minded Baptist churches.  “Cooperate, cooperate, cooperate, let’s cooperate together” was Baxley’s rally cry. 

And I agree! At the heart of our neighboring movement Loving Community, are people cooperating together for the good of the community. Our frequently used Twitter hashtag is #bettertogether.

Now for my non-Baptist friends, you may not know the history of the CBF which traces its origins to the city of Atlanta, founded in August of 1990. Wikipedia gives a brief account of this turbulent time in Southern Baptist life when the CBF broke away from the SBC “as a reaction to the successful effort by conservatives to capture the denominational institutions of the Southern Baptist Convention after more than a decade of public controversy between conservative and moderate/liberal factions.”

Wow! Maybe you didn’t know that, but yes, church folks aren’t exempt from words like “capture” and “controversy”— and I would add another to the list “competition”. In my experience as a community pastor often churches don’t “cooperate” with one another because they are “competing” against one another for the share of the church going folk in their community. I loved Baxley’s truism when he said, “where Jesus is present we don’t need to compete but cooperate with what Jesus is already doing.” ~ AMEN

Now in full disclosure I didn’t resonate with all of Baxley’s antidotes, while recognizing he was speaking to a room full of what he referred to as “congregational pastors”. I heard his comments through the lens of my calling as a “community pastor” in the tradition of Jesus and that of being a good neighbor. 

I admit to cringing a bit when he seemed to shade the work of nonprofits by explaining his new organizational role as, “not coming as a burned out pastor but as hearing a rousing heartfelt call to the importance of congregations…”. 

As the founder and leader of a nonprofit faith based public charity, and coming out of a 35-year role as a congregational pastor in CBF churches, I didn’t consider my own rousing calling to be the resignation of a burned out pastor, moreso the refueling of a gospel passion and a reimagining what it looks like to not only cooperate as churches, but with wider partners in our community like the businesses, city government, and educators — while all along helping churches to recapture the vision of what it looks like to live outside the box.

That aside, I fully resonate with Baxley’s passion for cooperating as he reminded the group in saying “that it is not possible with the exception of cooperation… and that living a Jesus life is the most important form of evangelism..and that we have a mission that none of us can carry out on our own…and that in our day and time a flimsy cooperation won’t do.” ~ AMEN

So thank you Paul Baxley for accepting the calling of leading a vitally important group of congregations (which includes my family at Wilshire) to continue to cooperate and create new avenues for bringing the good news to a world in great need. From one nonprofit community pastor, we offer our hand in partnership and cooperation. 

Live humbly and kind,

Jim

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