by Terry Maples, CBFVA Coordinator

CBFVA’s theme for 2019-2020 is Faithful Voices. This two-year emphasis corresponds with the two-year term of our Moderator Michael Cheuk. I confess this theme is not original with us. Faithful Voices was BTSR’s theme during its final academic year. CBFVA’s goal is not to “finish what was started” by BTSR but to delve into the richness of biblical models of commitment while lifting up faithful practices of current-day Christ-followers. Both historic and contemporary voices have much to teach us.

In some ways, this year’s theme is a natural follow-up to last year’s theme Seeking Transformation. A disciple seeks to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ for the sake of the world. Jesus, of course, is the ultimate example of a faithful voice—he was tuned-in to the voice of God as he modeled trust, love, consent, and obedience. Jesus nourished a deep intimate relationship with God, consequently, his heart reverberated God’s limitless love to the world. We, too, seek transformation through spiritual practices that move us toward intimate relationship with God and allow us to reverberate God’s love to those we encounter. Seeing rich evidence of God in us causes others to acknowledge, “That’s what faithfulness looks like.”

In today’s climate, discerning which voices are “faithful” can be confusing, and, if we are honest, we confess the church is complicit in contributing to this confusion. Ideas about who Jesus is and what his claims on our lives are, vary widely. Too often we choose to inform people about God rather than challenge them to form vibrant faith and place trust in the Creator. We choose well-oiled, efficient congregations over transformed people. This approach, according to Richard Rohr, enables people to “slowly stop seeing, loving, trusting, and surrendering” – all signs of transformed lives and faithfulness.

As a Christian educator, one thing I value greatly about being a CBF kind of Baptist is our willingness and desire to listen to voices from others tribes. We invite teachers and proclaimers outside our tradition to preach for our annual gatherings. Folks in our churches are encouraged to read prophetic writers of all stripes who stretch us beyond our comfort zones. We allow God to speak to us through gifted authors like Dorothy Butler Bass, Barbara Brown Taylor, Rachel Held Evans, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Richard Rohr, and so many others who force us past our assumptions and insist we consider new ways of defining faithfulness.

We invite your congregation to journey with us this year as together we discover what it means to be a faithful voice today. Someone once said people can’t go where they are not prepared to go, so we challenge you to lift up and celebrate faithful voices in your midst. Call upon faithful voices in your congregation to tell their personal stories of growth and transformation. This spiritual practice celebrates God’s active presence. By the end of the two-year journey, we hope and pray our congregations will be shaped and formed by a Jesus worldview. When we listen for Jesus’ voice and rightly discern God’s intent we are more likely to hear God’s affirmation, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).