In light of this week’s news release by the board of Free Will Baptist International Missions, here is a guest post from my friend M.D. on why he and his family are here to stay.
“In April of 2004, my wife and I were approved to go to Spain for a short term to do research and write a strategy to work in the southern part of the country. We were able to raise our money quickly and we left for Spain in August of the following year. We returned to the States in 2006 with a burden and a strategy that would take a team to complete. We were quickly approved for career service and began raising money again, only this time things would take much longer. We labored for more than two years on the road before we were able to go back to Spain. Our return was alone, without a team, and not in the south, where our strategy was focused. We were on the field for only one year of two when we were called back to raise funds yet again. That was January of 2010. In the two years since then, we have gained teammates, and momentum. Up until the unexpected phone call we received December 8, our plan was to leave for the field in January, complete with a team, headed to the south, ready to start working on our strategy. We were literally packing boxes, putting our things in order, and getting geared up for life on the field when we got that phone call. Everything is now on hold–again–because of funding. It looks like we will be spending more time just… waiting. Waiting, while working our tails off.
This raises a good question that needs to be answered by our family, other missionaries, and the entire denomination: is our denominational mission worth the effort? Should our family seek another agency to send us? We have been on this journey for seven years and we’ve only spent two and a half of them on the field! Surely we should jump ship. Why stay? Why ask others to continue to support us? Here are our personal answers to these questions:
One obvious reason to stay with a denominational mission is for doctrinal reasons. The reason we belong to the denomination in the first place is that we believe that FWBs have most correctly interpreted the whole of scripture. No one is claiming that we have everything right and that we’re the only ones who do, but our distinctives are biblically-based. Don’t underestimate the unifying impact it has to know that the people with whom we work and serve all have the same doctrinal understanding that we do. While the Kingdom is much wider than our denomination, it is both comforting and liberating to know that we can enter any Bible study, prayer time, or meeting knowing that we are in agreement regarding the core doctrines of the faith. If we walk away now, we step into a doctrinal minefield.
The people of our denomination are another good reason to stick around. We are a diverse group: philosophically, ethnically, economically, and culturally; and yet, we rally. We commit to work together because our similarities are greater and much weightier than our differences. We, like every other denomination on the planet, have our problems, but those problems are not insurmountable. To jump ship now would be to shortchange the glory God gets from bringing unity in the midst of diversity and triumph in the midst of pain.
The people of our mission are yet another excellent reason to stick it out. As insiders in the mission community, we can tell you that the caliber of people our denomination has on the field is outstanding. Our missionaries and staff are people of great character, and they are exceptional in what they do. They care about the Kingdom in a way that I have rarely seen in my travels. They are special. It is easy to find someone talking about making an impact, but it is hard to find someone willing to stick with it for decades while they work, pray, and wait on God. Our FWB missionaries have done this. No mission is without its problems, but (trust me on this) the grass is not greener on the other side.
One last reason to stay in a denominational mission: we need each other. God has gifted each of us in such a way that we are deficient in ministry without each other. Stop and let that sink in! God has gifted each of us in such a way that we are deficient in ministry without each other. We are not able to strike out on our own without the help and blessing of the body. We. need. each. other. We can go faster alone, but we will go farther together. We ALL need each other.
Is it time to abandon the denomination? No! It is time to embrace it, and that is exactly what our family will do. To God be the glory for the great things He will do in our midst as we humble ourselves and seek His face together.”