TAMPA, Fla. (ABP) — The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship commissioned 14 self-funded individuals to missions work June 23 at the General Assembly in Tampa, Fla. More than 1,600 Fellowship Baptists were in attendance on the first full day of the Assembly, which included auxiliary events, business sessions and the commissioning service.
The Atlanta-based Fellowship has been unable in recent years to appoint fully funded global missions personnel due to lack of funding. Next year’s budget cuts funding for global missions and ministries by $1.3 million without recalling any missionaries already on the field. Some savings were accomplished by changing policies to allow spouses of fully funded field workers to raise their own support.
Rob Nash, CBF global missions coordinator, said the newest crop of missionaries is indicative of changes occurring in missions strategy.
“They’re not up here because CBF has a bunch of money to fully fund what they are doing,” Nash said. “They’re up here because they have a passion, a burning, a desire to make a difference in the world.”
While they do not draw a salary from CBF, self-funded field workers receive things like computers, network support and sometimes health insurance through a Global Missions Offering collected separately from the bulk of the CBF budget. CBF leaders have recently toured the country to meet with church leaders urging them to “keep the promise” to fully funded missionaries already sent by leading their churches to match or exceed totals for last year in the current mission offering.
Nash noted that next year marks the 200th anniversary of Ann and Adoniram Judson’s setting sail for India as the first American and Baptist missionaries. With Luther Rice, they helped inspire interest in foreign missions that prompted Baptists in the United States to form the first national convention for missionary support.
Nash said mission-sending organizations struggled in the 19th century, but during the 20th century got it down to a science. In the 21st century, he said, the scene is changing again, as more and more people want to become personally engaged in mission service without making it a full-time career.
“These field personnel tonight are being called out of networks focused on particular ministry in particular parts of the world as much as they are being called by CBF,” Nash said at the commissioning service. “Or they are creating those networks in order to do this thing to which God has called them.”
“It truly is something to celebrate — this passion, this energy that drives them and the rest of us together and then sends us into the world,” Nash said. “I’m convinced that we are seeing here a picture of the global mission future.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.