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December 2021- February 2022

We Need Each Other


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Building Leaders

By Steve Torrison


Of the many channels on cable television, my wife and I almost always watch some kind of home renovation show. We enjoy commenting on the problems they face or the choices they make. Often one of us will say something like, “How on earth will they get that fixed?” To which the other (usually Lori) replies, “Yes, they put that in there so you will react. It’s just for TV.” She’s right. However, it’s not just television for the homeowners living through the renovation.

I see two realities in this scenario. First, the television consumer expects difficulties to occur, even cheers for them. The viewer is sorely disappointed when things go “as planned” with no major problems to resolve. Of course, everything must be completed within the allotted show time. Second, the homeowner has a completely different viewpoint. What takes an hour to watch may take several months for those living through the renovation.

How does this apply to leadership? Too often, leaders approach leadership training from the consumer’s viewpoint. Either we want to get it done as quickly as possible, or we want to delegate it to someone else and watch the TV special once all is said and done. Truth is, we need to approach leadership with a long-term mentality.

I confess, when I arrived in Uruguay in 2015, I came with—not a consumer’s viewpoint—more of a DIY/Youtuber’s viewpoint. I knew exactly what to do because I had taught a few classes in another seminary in Panama. I brought my toolbox with me. I guess you could say I was a contractor’s worst nightmare. I had all the confidence in the world, with little actual understanding to back it up.

I do not refer to my understanding of Scripture, the material I was teaching, or even the methodologies available. However, I did not come with the open mind needed to teach effectively in the culture and context of Uruguay. The result? Frustration.

When Lori and I returned to Uruguay in 2019, I was ready to tackle the training situation again. The Uruguayan association had approved and brought in a Cuban couple to help lead the Bible institute in the city of Rivera. I was excited to begin working with someone else and not trying to lead, teach, and manage finances on my own.

If you are a fan of home renovation shows, you know the stars typically work in teams. One person doesn’t do all the work. They establish a design team, a demolition team, a planning team—all specialties for various aspects of renovation. With the arrival of the Cuban family I thought, “We can start fresh and new.” To my dismay, it didn’t quite work out. I taught the same things I taught previously, and things didn’t seem any different. The students seemed to attend just because “the missionary told us to.”

On occasion, during home improvement shows, foundation issues must be resolved first, or the resulting renovation will be worthless. Sometimes, the foundation of a house is just fine, maybe displaying a few cracks from time and age. It requires only a patch or two. Other times, an entirely new foundation is required. Well, we are actually trying to do both right now: repair the existing foundation and establish an entirely new foundation.

In Rivera, the Cuban couple continues the Bible institute with the few students present there. Meanwhile, in the capital city, the church has begun “pre-institute” classes. More than Sunday School, but not quite undergraduate level classes, these patch a crack. One of the cracks we found is the level of education for most church people. I was teaching at a level higher than they needed. This is one of the biggest challenges we have faced over the past few years—not everyone has completed high school. We shouldn’t assume they understand what we are teaching.

On the second front, we have begun trying to build disciples in the most fundamental sense: disciples who produce disciples, who produce disciples, etc. This is the “new foundation” if you will. We purposely sought the younger generation to encourage and build up with a new style of discipleship in hopes they will take it back to their own churches.

Another challenge is tradition. Historically, moving past what always has been done to see what can be done is difficult. Understand, I don’t want to tear down or demolish everything that deals with tradition. The rich heritage we enjoy in Uruguay would not be here if not for the pioneers. Yet, we need to make sure we do not hold tradition in higher esteem than truth. Just because the last homeowner added a turret to a colonial home, doesn’t mean we have to figure out a way to keep it.

The older I get, the more I understand I am getting set in my ways. What is the solution? Be willing to train others to do the job. As is often the case here, and as Jaimie Lancaster wisely put it, sometimes they need to learn to fail, as well.

The Free Will Baptist church in Uruguay has great potential. But the hard truth is, it requires seeing the ministry from a homeowner’s perspective. It will take time and patience and, sometimes, require outside help. But God will do something great here. For anyone willing to stay the course or jump on board, you can only go up from here.

About the Author: Steve Torrison and his wife Lori were appointed career missionaries to Panama in July 2004. Learn more:


©2022 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists