ATLANTA (BP)–In asking who are the true Baptists, George Mason said the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Southern Baptist Convention are similar to the biblical Samaritans and the Jews who asked, “Who are the true people of God?”
“God knows we are right,” Mason said. “But we shant prove it by turning up the volume on our little shouting matches. God will sort this out in the end. Meanwhile we have come to the point of no return.”
Delivering the sermon at the first general session of the tenth annual meeting of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, June 28-30, in Atlanta, Mason, pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, said if participants follow the lead of James and John they could become preoccupied with “our mixed-up cousins.”
“We have a regular ‘he said, she said’ — and we are the ‘she said,'” said Mason, to the crowd’s delight.
Mason said time is wasting, just like in Jesus’ day when he rebuked the disciples for falling back. “We can’t afford to waste time. We have the good news gospel to proclaim the kingdom of God,” he said.
Remembering the pilots at Pearl Harbor, he said they had to watch their fuel carefully while out on mission, or otherwise face having to find a place to land, unplanned. There was a time when the flight engineer would tell them they were coming up on the point of no return [when the remaining fuel was insufficient to return to base].
It’s time for CBF, Mason said, after 10 “exciting” and “fun” years. “We have to make a decision. Are we prepared?” he asked.
Mason recalled a story that reminded him of Jesus at the Samaritan village — where the people asked him to stay, but on their terms and to be their messiah, and so Jesus left to travel on to Jerusalem, turning away from them.
The story speaks of a boy who persuades his mother to stop on the side of the road to lead him in a prayer inviting Jesus in his heart. A few miles later he stops her again and says, “Okay, I want him out now.”
“Some of us will do well to do the same thing,” Mason said. “To ask Jesus out of our hearts, because…Jesus doesn’t rest easy in our hearts. He stirs them and disturbs them until we let go our hold on him and instead begin to follow him where he wants to lead us.
“You see, the kingdom of God is not locked inside of us,” said Mason. “It is among us, it’s ahead of us.”
Referring to songs earlier in the program, Mason said they talk about “free and faithful Baptists — but we are never one without the other.”
“We are free when we are found faithful to follow Jesus,” he said, illustrating the point by describing three of the disciples, not by name, but by circumstance. First there is a man who is ill, next one with family obligations, and finally one who would miss material things, said Mason.
“Jesus is unyielding,” Mason said, urging young listeners especially to forgo “creature comforts” in order to answer a call to ministry or missions.
Referring to a discussion with a Rabbi friend, Mason said only about 8% of those entering the ministry as Baptists are under the age of 35. He said those figures rise when the economy is not well.
“The Kingdom of God is like a jobs program now,” he said. “If the moderate Baptist movement is to grow and thrive into the next generation we are going to have to call out a whole lot more and a whole lot more are going to have to answer the call.
“While it is well to emphasize the priesthood of all believers, we cannot neglect vocational ministry service to those who are called.
“It’s sometimes a lousy job,” Mason said, “but always a wonderful calling.”
Despite pessimism by people who say following Jesus with CBF adherents might negatively affect a person’s chances for a position, Mason said to listen to the critics who anticipate no future for CBF is dangerous.
“That’s true, we Baptists don’t agree on everything all the time,” said Mason, “there’s conflict and tension…so that’s the point. …Are we supposed to know the future first before we follow Jesus?”
Because CBF is still incomplete work, it’s all right not to know how things will turn out, Mason said.
“It’s all right not to know how the structure will turn out, or even if the project will stand the test of time,” Mason said. “We are free today to be [Baptists].”