When I served as a pastor of a local church, I conducted over 165 funerals in 24 years. Usually, on such occasions, someone would refer to a passage in Ecclesiastes Chapter Three. That Chapter begins with the sentence which states, to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. That phrase challenges people to reflect on the significance of being good stewards of their time. As members and officers of the Cleveland Baptist Association and as members of the affiliated CBA churches, we need to reflect on our stewardship of time. Are we managing our God-given time wisely?
The answer to that question, might lead to another question. What time is it? Without any disrespect to local American Baptists who were dedicated, faithful, brave, spiritual trailblazers who served the Lord before we came upon the scene; we must declare that this is a new era. This era has many challenges to confront just as previous generations had. So, we must search deep within ourselves as we respond to the question: are we managing our God-give time wisely?
Several months ago the CBA Board of Trustees created an expanded executive committee to examine future alternatives. That committee evolved into a think tank. Then it became The Vision 2020 Project. As the group prayed, processed ideas, and considered options for a collective ministry, there may have been a powerful unspoken question lurking deep in their spirit. Are we using our time wisely? Or one might also ask, what time is it?
If we indeed use our God-given time wisely for ministry, then we may need to go outside of our comfort zone and even make financial decisions that some people may perceive as bold or risky. However, as we look at the troubles in our community as well as the various organizations in the Christian community, there is definitely a place for this Christian ministry. What time is it? It is time for us to reshape this collective ministry as we respond to certain challenges and needs around us.
There is a great need for training lay leaders as well as continuing education for clergy. There is a need for cooperative youth ministry efforts. There is a need for inspirational forums that will overflow to the various local congregations. There is a need for rendering crisis intervention for individuals when local congregations need additional resources. There is a need for additional prophetic voices to support social justice issues. There is a need to continue our successful and dynamic efforts in Africa as we respond to what Jesus referred to as the lease among us. There will always be a need to be supportive of struggling congregations as they deal with things that are unique and threatening to their ministry.
What time is it? It is time to embrace creative change in the name of the Lord! As we consider the proposal that we may refer to as a Vision Proposal, we can be guided by certain outcome. We should expect (1) inclusiveness, (2) accountability, (3) effectiveness, (4) commitment to the purpose, and also (5) theologically sound, Bible–based principles.
In Luke Chapter #5 Jesus encountered some potential leaders when they were on the shore after a disappointing all-night fishing venture. He challenged them to, launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch. Peter replied that they had fished all night but had caught nothing. But Jesus reminded them that it was time to launch out! That is the challenge before us today! It is time to launch out! Let us do this with faith and enthusiasm!
In The Master’s Service,
Rev. Andrew Edwards, MSW, M.Div., Ph.D.