Thursday, December 8, 2011
Jesus, Bible and Missions, Not Politics
“Aren’t you concerned that critics might accuse CBFNC of being too political?” my friend asked, as we stood in the sanctuary of FBC Sylva following a Monday evening worship service last October. The service was part of a collaborative effort of CBFNC and the Western North Carolina Baptist Fellowship (WNCBF) to conduct a joint Fellowship on the Move and WNCBF fall gathering.
WNCBF leaders had requested that I enlist Rev. Hector Villeneuva to serve as the preacher for the service. The inquirer was a pastor, who had been out of circulation for much of the year and therefore was not aware of the events surrounding Hector’s arrest, attempted deportation, and eventual (Praise God!) release back to his family and congregation.
“Don’t get me wrong,” my colleague continued. “I’m in favor of CBFNC’s involvement in the immigration issue. Hector’s story is amazing. But it does concern me that some folks might see it in a more negative light, and might accuse us of violating the separation of church and state.”
“I hear what you’re saying,” I explained to my friend. “CBFNC still adheres firmly to church-state separation. It’s one of our bedrock principles. We’re not engaging in partisan politics. We didn’t even set out to get involved in the immigration discussion. But we did feel called by God to pursue missions with the growing Hispanic population in our state. And we discovered that when you reach out to people with the love of Jesus, when you truly try to be the presence of Christ with them, their issues become your issues.”
CBFNC is, above all, a missions organization. Our missiology is based on our reading of the Bible. By taking Scripture seriously, we are led to be a missionary people. By taking God’s call to mission seriously, we are led down paths that, on our own, we might not choose to go. But as the old hymn has us sing, “Wherever He leads, I’ll go.” And our Bible-based, Spirit-led, mission-focused life together is taking us down some new paths.
Because Jesus, echoing a repeated Old Testament refrain states, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35), as missionary Baptists we are led to welcome the Hispanic immigrants who have come into our state.
Because Paul explains, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14), and “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28), as missionary Baptists we are led to seek reconciliation with brothers and sisters of other races.
Because repeatedly in the Old Testament God’s people are urged, “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern” (Proverbs 29:7), and Jesus himself described as his personal mission “to proclaim good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18), as missionary Baptists we are led to engage in ministries that address issues of wealth and poverty in our state and world.
These are some of the new ministry paths the Spirit is leading us to take. I can’t say for sure where we’ll be called to go next. But I know one thing for sure. We have no interest in pursuing anybody’s political agenda. Our only agenda is to study God’s Word, listen to the Spirit’s call, and faithfully pursue that call consistent with our heritage as missionary Baptists.
Larry Hovis is the Executive Coordinator of CBF of North Carolina.