On Monday, January 14, I was told a secret. I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone until after 9:30 the next morning. Well, unfortunately, I couldn’t keep the good news a secret so I told my wife, who had also been told the secret. I then reached out to a couple of friends who I knew were eagerly awaiting this good news. Guess what?  They had heard the secret, too.

Sometimes, secrets are too good to keep. And the secret that I along with others was told was certainly too good to keep. After a months-long process, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Executive Coordinator Search Committee had unanimously selected Dr. Paul Baxley, pastor of CBF/GA partner congregation, FBC Athens as our next CBF Global Executive Coordinator.

I had heard that Paul was one of the finalists for the position, and as I’ve told several folks, I was excited and sad at the same time. I was excited for the future of CBF Global, because I have found Paul to be one of the best strategic leaders and skilled communicators of the Gospel that we moderate Baptists have. In my first year at CBF/GA, Paul has been an encourager and supporter of my work and the good work of CBF/GA. He has led FBC Athens to expand its ministry and scope of witness. And most of all, he’s just a really, really good guy.

But I must admit I was sad because of these same qualities that Paul has. FBC Athens is losing one great pastor. And CBF/GA is losing one of our best leaders, too. In a day when congregational ministerial leadership is at premium, the loss of someone of Paul Baxley’s character and quality from the church minister ranks is tough.

Lest you think I’m holding a grudge about this transition, let me disabuse you of such notions. I don’t know if the Search Committee could have made a better selection than Paul. The legacy of leadership by Cecil Sherman, Daniel Vestal, and Suzii Paynter will continue with Paul. Paul’s previous CBF leadership, both at the state and global levels, has given him insight into CBF’s broad network of partnerships and congregations. His deep commitment to Gospel-grounded missions and service in the name of Jesus will build upon the good work of CBF. His passion for telling and living the story of Jesus will enrich the life of CBF in ways that we can’t even imagine.

You know, the more I process this week’s news, my sadness is waning. Yes, it will be difficult for FBC Athens to find another Paul Baxley, but I have faith that they will discover another gifted minister who will lead them – and, by extension, us – to continue the good work of the Gospel. In the days ahead, I ask that you lift Paul, his wife Jennifer, and their four children up to God in your prayers. I also ask that you keep FBC Athens in your prayers as well as they begin this season of transition.

So, the real secret of FBC Athens and CBF/GA is out there for all of CBF to know and love. Paul Baxley, we’re excited that we can share you with the rest of the CBF world, and we are here to support you as you lead and serve in the days ahead.

Jody Long, CBF/GA Executive Coordinator, [email protected]