Our church hosted Rob Nash at a reception this evening. He is the Coordinator of CBF Global Missions and is making his way through the state getting acquainted with Fellowship folks. We had good conversation and response from our church. I appreciated being in the loop for such an important tour.
Things have changed among Baptists during the last 25 years (a supreme understatement). Consequently, a paradigm shift is taking place in regard to how we fund and support the missionary enterprise. Part of this necessity relates to how well CBFers support global missions on a financial basis, the other relates to local churches getting involved personally rather than merely commissioning individuals to do the work for them. Vocational missionaries remain the “backbone” on the missions effort but other approaches are being incorporated as well. For example, self-supporting “affiliates” are being commissioned by CBF and being sent to the mission field. This is a new model for me; I have been raised to think that missionaries should be fully supported by the denomination. There is still merit to this approach, in that missionaries don’t have to fret about their financial stability. The other aspect is that church members can be lulled into a sense of false security because they are “paying” someone else to witness for them.
Another development in missiology is that there are so many nationalities represented at our doorstep that the world has literally come to us. I was glad to hear some of our members talk about how we can connect to international students across the street. We are making progress in this area already, but have work to do. It is so important to respect persons of different religous backgrounds. One truth that I am trying to communicate (and absorb) is that every member is a missionary. This is an exciting and sobering thought. More members are getting involved in missions personally, and for this I am grateful.
I was glad to hear that no vocational missionaries have been recalled due to financial reasons. It appears that there is enough support to maintain our current missionary force, unlike what I’ve heard among from other Baptist groups. I do see more CBF and ABC partnerships, recognizing that we can do more together if cooperate rather than compete with one another. Nash hinted as the possibility of partnerships across denominational lines. This would certainly be a new approach for us Baptists, and I look forward to see whether or not this notion takes root.
“Missions is God’s idea,” I recall a Director of Missions saying years ago. The world is changing and getting smaller, making is both easier and more of a challenge to share the Good News. I hope more congregations catch the vision of what God is doing in the world, beginning with the community around the church building. It’s easier to send folks away to do missions than get involved with people who might actually visit the church on Sunday morning. It’s also easier to give money and excuse yourself from getting involved on a more personal level. Both actions are needed, and hopefully our church will continue rising to the challenge and calling of missions.