Background

Beginning in 1979, a concerted effort was undertaken to bring about a drastic change in the leadership and direction of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). This effort was accomplished through a well-organized political process that involved electing a Convention president who would make appointments that eventually resulted in placing persons on boards of agencies and institutions who would carry out desired changes. Control of boards was accomplished in about twelve years, along with replacing the administrations, and eventually, most employees of the agencies and institutions. Great attention was given to altering the character and culture of the seminaries and mission agencies. Those who supported these changes labeled this process, “The Conservative Resurgence.” Those who opposed these changes referred to the process as, “The Fundamentalist Takeover.” Regardless of one’s approval or disapproval of the changes, all agreed that by 1991, the SBC had undergone a major transformation. That year, a group gathered in Atlanta representing active Southern Baptists who were displeased with the new direction of the SBC. This group formed a new body that was incorporated as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). The focus in those days was to provide a place of fellowship for people disenfranchised from the SBC and a funding channel for missionaries and new theological schools.

CBF has grown far beyond its humble beginnings. Though many of the churches and individuals who partner through CBF still have a connection to the SBC, CBF is recognized as a separate body, as evidenced by its membership in the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), an organization of over two hundred international Baptist bodies. It is worth noting the SBC subsequently withdrew from the BWA.

Baptist Principles

Cooperative Baptists place a high premium on historic Baptist principles. In fact, disagreement over the interpretation of these principles, and how they are applied in local churches and denominational life, has been at the heart of the controversy in the SBC. CBF’s understanding of basic Christian and Baptist principles is reflected in its official documents and strategic plan.

Our Identity – “We are a fellowship of Baptist Christians and churches who share a passion for the Great Commission of Jesus Christ and a commitment to Baptist principles of faith and practice.”

Our Vision – “Being the presence of Christ in the world.”

Our Mission – “Serving Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.”

Our Core Values

Baptist Principles:

  • Soul Freedom – We believe in the priesthood of all believers and the equality of every church member.

  • Bible Freedom – We believe in the authority of Scripture under the Lordship of Christ without the imposition of creedal statements.

  • Church Freedom – We believe in the autonomy of every local church and affirm every church’s right to determine its faith, practice and leadership without outside interference.

  • Religious Freedom – We believe in full religious liberty and the separation of church and state.

From Convention to Partnership

Most lifelong Southern Baptist adults were nurtured in a “convention culture” in which congregations, district associations, state conventions and the national convention closely connected through money (which flowed from congregations to associations and state conventions to the national convention) and programs (which flowed from the national convention to state conventions and associations to congregations). Theoretically, autonomy was exercised at every level, but in practice functioned as an organizational pyramid with congregations forming the base and the Convention at the apex.

In contrast, CBF promotes partnership in which congregations are at the center of Baptist life. Congregations are encouraged to determine their unique, God-given mission, then choose partners to assist them in accomplishing that mission. CBF does not demand loyalty but humbly asks for opportunities to be a significant missional partner.

State & Regional Organizations

In addition to CBF Global, with its offices in Decatur, GA, there are autonomous state and regional CBF bodies. These bodies work very closely with CBF in a symbiotic relationship. CBF Tennessee is an autonomous entity with its own funding stream and organizational structure. We seek to be the face of CBF in Tennessee by promoting CBF ministries alongside Tennessee ministries and mission engagement, our own paid staff, elected leadership, and General Assembly. We partner with CBF Global to:

  • Support global missions field personnel at home and abroad

  • Provide spiritual formation opportunities

  • Provide leadership development for laity and clergy

  • Provide reference and referral services for churches seeking staff and ministers seeking opportunity

Getting Connected

CBF, at both the state and national levels, is not a member organization, but a fellowship of churches and individuals who voluntarily cooperate to do together what we cannot accomplish alone, for the sake of God’s Kingdom. Consider attending our Assembly, participate in our ministries, or call on our staff members or volunteer leaders for information or assistance. If you resonate with our mission, vision and values, and desire to share in our ministries, you are welcome in our fellowship! Your financial gifts are welcome, too, as we partner to enrich God’s Kingdom work in the world. May God bless and guide us as you reach out around the world to be the Presence of Christ.

Introducing CBF to Your Church

Many pastors and church leaders are sympathetic to the values, goals and ministries of CBF. They would like to lead their churches to a closer relationship with CBF but aren’t sure how to begin the process. Here are some practical ways to educate a congregation about the mission and ministries of CBF, in Tennessee and around the world, and equip your congregation for effective missions and ministry.

CBF Gatherings

One of the greatest strengths of the CBF movement is the quality of our fellowship. Our meetings are inspiring, educational, and enjoyable. A great way to introduce church members to CBF is to take them to a CBF gathering. Here are a few of the types of gatherings we offer:

  • State General Assembly – The annual TCBF General Assembly is held in September in a Tennessee church.
  • Global General Assembly – The Assembly is usually held at the end of June in a convention center in a large city.
  • Retreats, Conferences, etc. – CBF and TCBF offer retreats, conferences and other educational/equipping events throughout the year. Register for the monthly electronic newsletter to receive information and updates. You can do so by reaching out to the Tennessee Field Coordinator at rbennett@cbf.net.

CBF Speakers

Invite a CBF speaker to come to your church. Speakers work with pastors and church leaders to deliver a message or provide a program to meet your church’s needs. Potential speakers include:

  • CBF Tennessee Field Coordinator
  • CBF Global Personnel
  • CBF Global Missions Field Personnel (missionaries)

MISSIONS EDUCATION

Most churches have a mission education ministry. CBF produces missions education materials for all ages, from preschool through adults. A good way to educate congregations about CBF, especially CBF Global Missions, is by starting new groups that use CBF missions education materials or by supplementing the materials used by existing groups (Mission Friends, RAs, GAs, adult groups) with CBF materials. These materials may be ordered from CBF at cbf.net.

Global Missions Offering Promotion – Most churches collect special offerings for missions, either the traditional Christmas offering for international missions and Easter offering for home missions, or another emphasis. CBF missions education and support can be included by either adding a new emphasis for CBF Global Missions or including CBF Global Missions as an offering option when receiving missions offerings throughout the year and especially at Christmas, Easter and other times. Some churches offer a choice regarding where to direct their offerings. Others determine a certain percentage to give to CBF. Whenever you choose to emphasize CBF Global Missions, do so with posters, bulletin inserts, offering envelopes, videos, missions speakers, etc. These materials may be ordered from CBF through the website at cbf.net.

Mission Projects – Missions is a major focus for CBF, both state and national, as we seek to connect with what God is doing in the world. Many churches are no longer content to give financial support or pray for missionaries. They are becoming involved in hands on mission action. When planning your next church mission project, for youth or adults, consider partnering with TCBF or CBF.

Teach Baptist History and Heritage – Many Baptists are woefully unaware of their history and historic Baptist. principles. As a result, they have little context for analyzing the vast changes that have taken place in Baptist life the past thirty years. A solid process for educating congregations in Baptist history and heritage over the past four hundred years, including the past thirty-five, will help them understand why CBF is essential for a healthy Baptist witness in the twenty-first century.