By Suzii Paynter
Recently, a church consultant in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship constellation critiqued our Fellowship, writing that a “large-scale missions model based on career missionaries has proven to be too expensive and too difficult to maintain.” Since this consultant explicitly named CBF Global Missions, I have to reply, “Friend, you are flat wrong!”
First, the call of God to serve within cultures and contexts not of one’s origin is the essence of Missio Dei. Commitment to long-term presence in other cultures outside and inside the United States is a pillar of Holy Work within the kinship of God for our time. CBF’s commitment to respect the Global Church as expressed in cultures and countries across continents is remarkably effective, efficient and sustainable.
It’s contagious, too. The Spirit is afoot and captures our hearts, minds and lives when we are generous enough to give ourselves away as a church family to the purpose for which God has called us into partnership. Holy Work takes time and immersion—incarnation not visitation. Jesus modeled community built on years, and what he left behind was a community of the faithful—not a book, a plan or a program.
There are more than 60 million people migrating across the globe in unexpected waves because of war, exploitation, political unrest, famine, extreme poverty and dangers of many kinds. CBF field personnel are serving in these conflicted contexts. Recognizing, supporting, blessing and equipping individuals among us who respond to a Gospel call interculturally and transnationally is a call born of Scripture. “Go, make disciples” is a mandate woven deeply into Christ’s command and a 21st century expression of the living word of God. Who shall be the bridgebuilder among nations of the world? The one who gives a life for this endeavor.
My invitation to anyone who would suggest that a large-scale missions model is “too difficult to maintain” is to join CBF on the field as it successfully does that very thing. Critiquing from the sideline is easy. Witness some of these not-so-expensive and not-so-difficult ministries in Romania, Japan, Macedonia, Indonesia, France, Belgium, Togo, Uganda, Perry County, Ala., Kentucky, Sunflower County, Miss., Thailand and Cambodia.
Career dedication to the work is difficult, but God is waiting there. Our CBF community benefits broadly from career missionaries like Tina Bailey, accompanying prisoners on death row, and Missy Ward-Angalla and Jade and Shelah Acker, healing women fleeing conflict. What’s right about career missionaries? It is a career of serving others generously with dedication to advocacy through true deep friendship.
What’s right with encourager churches? They commit to strong relationships with long-term field personnel and join hands, hearts and pocketbooks with true transnational, transcultural friends. Strategy, cost-effective decisions and recruiting dedicated personnel have been a part of right-sizing missions and CBF’s work with the Global Church. These are intentional efforts that allow for more engagement, not less—more encouragement, more transforming ministry.
People all over the U.S. are looking for meaning in their work and purpose in their lives. There is nothing more replete with gratitude and satisfaction than interfacing transnationally with Christians in service around the world. In these long-term relationships with the Global Church one finds hospitality, generosity, joy, perseverance, fruits of the spirit, music, food and the warm embrace of ecclesia.
Jesus says to Andrew, “Come and see.” Some of you have. I hope more of you will—join the not-so-expensive and not-so-difficult, exceedingly grace-filled enterprise of global mission sending that is at the core of your church and your Fellowship.
Before you critique, come and see.
Suzii Paynter is Executive Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
This article first appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of fellowship! magazine, the quarterly publication of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Subscribe to fellowship! magazine and CBF’s weekly e-newsletter fellowship! weekly at www.cbf.net/subscribe.