There is a great deal of anxiety and fear that the U.S. church is in trouble, that it is no longer growing while churches outside the country are, and that fewer and fewer U.S. missionaries are being dispatched, said a Baptist leader.
But Rob Nash, Global Missions coordinator at Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, isn't so worried.
"I'm convinced that what we are witnessing today is not a loss of passion for missions but rather, a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit around the world whose expression is so vastly different that we can sometimes hardly recognize," he said Wednesday at CBF's 20th General Assembly in Charlotte, N.C.
"I would suggest that we as the American church are right in the center of it, finally shedding the old clothes of Christendom and civil religion and exclusivity that has held us back and bursting forth into a new paradigm of globalization and cross-cultural engagement that is truly transforming and reshaping us."
His address was made as 16 new field personnel were commissioned for full-time missions service. The new missionaries will be serving in countries like the Czech Republic, Philippines, Haiti, Chile and South Africa.
They were commissioned, however, at a time when donations to Global Missions have been down. So far, giving to the missions fund is 29 percent behind budget, as reported by Associated Baptist Press. If giving does not increase, CBF may be forced to pull missionaries from the field.
"People are always saying 'Why don't you appoint more funded missionaries?' The fact is we don't have the money," said CBF Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal, according to ABP.
Vestal noted that every dime that is given to the Offering for Global Missions goes to the missionary or the ministry of a missionary.
Despite the financial challenges, Nash celebrated the newly called and appointed missionaries.
And he expressed enthusiasm for the new ways God is working.
"I don't think we're (U.S. church) in trouble," said Nash. "I think we're learning ... how to work together with the global church, how to overcome exclusivity, how to listen."
CBF churches and the U.S. church as a whole are not standing at the margins of what God is doing in the world, he said, but at the "very center."
But he reminded them, "God doesn't give a rip about CBF Global Missions is doing and about what your congregation is doing. God gives a rip about what God is doing and about how we can come together as people of God in what God is doing in the world."
The CBF General Assembly concludes Saturday. CBF, based in Atlanta, is made up of individuals and approximately 1,900 affiliated churches.