I received an email recently, inviting me to endorse Dr. Paul Baxley, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Athens, Georgia, as the next Executive Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. I was more than happy to do so, having worked with Paul so very closely as a member of the Governing Board in general and the Board’s Illumination Project committee in particular.
I specifically remember our first meeting with that group and Paul’s devotion he was tasked to give the committee. Paul chose for his text the Jerusalem Conference in Acts 15 and did a masterful job of helping us to see that such thorny conversations weren’t new to contemporary Christians. Jesus’ disciples have had to negotiate difficult matters from the very beginning. Paul’s interpretation of the passage invited us to consider how binary (“either-or”) conclusions don’t always solve prickly dilemmas. Sometimes we must sense the Holy Spirit’s guidance in finding a place to land that is safe turf for everyone. I was deeply impressed by Paul’s insights and how he directed us toward a Bible-based foundation to our deliberations so that we might avoid the culture war rhetoric that only divides more.
I offered my endorsement of Paul, along with many others who had received similar invitations. As I read what others had to say, I especially locked in on the words “theologically profound leadership” and “a refreshing contagious exuberance” – both characteristics I have seen in Paul and celebrate.
As a CBF-supportive church, I invite you to join me in praying for Paul as he takes the helm of CBF later this spring. He faces quite a challenge, if only because of how denominational bodies are facing uphill climbs, in large measure because of how many churches have chosen to do their own thing. Fortunately, our church still understands the importance of cooperating with other congregations to do more than we could accomplish by ourselves. Paul Baxley’s new position with one of our key missions partners should give us confidence that our cooperation with CBF will make even more of a difference in the days ahead.
You can read more about Paul’s background and the various endorsements at www.cbf.net/baxley. You can also make plans to be a part of his presentation to the CBF General Assembly this June 19-21, which will meet here in Birmingham at the BJCC. Most importantly, you can make plans to be in town on Sunday, June 23, when Paul will be preaching at MBBC.
Every good leader and every effective organization understands the importance of vision. How much better when a leader does so with “theological exuberance” so that the organization’s witness has substance, credibility, and promise – all the kinds of qualities that I want for myself, my church, and my denomination. My guess (and my prayer) is that you do, too.
“The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them” (Acts 15:12).