Josh Beeler, third year Baptist Theological Seminary of Richmond student, talks about his journey with CBF and how he’s been inspired to share CBF with others. Perhaps his story can help to encourage you if you are looking to find ways to plug into CBF life. Josh shares his story below as a part of a series on CBF Young Baptists.
It’s always interesting to be called a “Young CBFer” or a “Future Leader” of the Fellowship because, for me, it’s true on multiple levels. I’m a 25 year-old student at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (BTSR) going into my final year of the Master of Divinity program. So in the very obvious sense, I’m young. But I’m young in relationship with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as well.
I didn’t grow up in CBF life. To be honest, I didn’t even know what “CBF” meant until I arrived at BTSR for orientation. My family hopped around between Baptist and Methodist churches throughout my childhood, so I never fully developed a denominational identity at all during that time, let alone an understanding for where I fell in the spectrum of Baptist thought. It wasn’t until I got involved at the Old Dominion University Baptist Collegiate Ministry, developed a great relationship with my dedicated and moderately-minded campus minister, Rob Sandford, and discerned my call to Baptist ministry that I even began to ask questions about whether or not my theological leanings had any sort of base of support. Fortunately for me they did, and my mentors and friends guided me right to where I would find it: at BTSR and in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
After learning about the Fellowship, the work that they did and the things that they stood for, I was hooked and sought immediately to develop a relationship. In my first year of seminary, I spent many days having conversation with Virginia State Coordinator, Rob Fox, and volunteering my time to help with mission projects and share information about the work of CBF and CBFVA at their display booths. After my first year of seminary, I became the Mission Intern for CBFVA and served in the role during my second and third year of seminary. It was an incredible experience that allowed me to really dive into the Fellowship’s ministries in the states. I worked with hundreds of teenagers at Mission Madness to be a missional presence in our local communities. I got to organize and coordinate the Fall Youth Retreat with hundreds more teenagers and bring a meaningful retreat and worship experience to participants from our local churches. I organized and maintained the CBFVA Mission Trailer that is stocked with tools and recreational supplies for local churches to use for their own projects. I helped at General Assemblies, in our Mission Box and Mission Books school supply collection projects, and in many other ways.
In short, my internship experience at CBFVA helped me discern the kind of commitment that I look forward to continuing with the Fellowship in the future, and it also showed me very clearly the kind of commitment that the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is willing to invest in me.
Going into my final year of seminary, my role and relationship with CBF is set to change. I am no longer the Mission Intern at CBFVA, but am focusing my efforts this year on finishing my schooling strong and bringing what I have learned about the Fellowship back to my congregation. I have served as the Youth and Outreach Minister at my church for almost five years now and have begun the process of integrating my relationship with the Fellowship into my ministry at the church. Our youth group participated in CBFVA’s Mission Madness for the first time last year, and every one of my teens who attended has asked multiple times to return. I look forward to getting our teens involved with the statewide Mission Box pen pal project with Chinese ESL students this year as well, and looking for opportunities to get them involved in many other Fellowship activities. Very few of our teens and parents are aware of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or the ministries that they do, so my focus this year is going to be an exciting one: to introduce my students and church members to a missional Fellowship that cares deeply for the cause of Christ in this world, and has been one of the most formative entities in my call and ministry.