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the great commission requires interdependence

by Jeff Turnbough


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When I attended Bible college in the early 1970s, the independent movements within Christendom wielded a strong influence among Free Will Baptists and throughout North America. I thought, “Okay, but I’m part of a denomination.”

In the early ‘80s I came to Spain and Europe where evangelical Christians, a clear minority, continually criticized expatriate workers for bringing in denominations. From their perspective, denominations are at best creations of men, and at worst an invention of the enemy serving to divide the Church. Yet in my mind was the thought, “Okay, but I’m a part of a denomination.”

Frankly, the concept of total independence is foreign to the Scriptures. On the other hand, forming part of a truly God-honoring group of believers is not wrong, but both healthy and biblical. A member of the press asked the pastor of a United States mega-church if his congregation was still a part of a denomination because they no longer displayed the name in their literature. The pastor replied his church would always be a part of the larger group for one main reason: no church or individual Christian can fulfill the Great Commission alone.


“Having given ourselves to God, by faith in Christ, and adopted the Word of God as our rule of faith and practice, we now give ourselves to one another by the will of God in this solemn covenant” (Church Covenant, FWB Treatise). As Free Will Baptists, we are not independent. We have voluntarily given ourselves to one another for multiple reasons. One of the core values of our union is working together to fulfill Christ’s last command, which should be our highest priority: the Great Commission.


The Task Is Huge

The world population is 6.6 billion and growing every second. In addition to a growing population, the changing nature of society, culture, new generations, global economics, politics, and diverse religions increase the difficulty of the task. No one believer, church, or Christian group can accomplish the entire task God left to His Church.

Yet every single believer, church, and Christian group must be about the business of fulfilling this task. That leads us all to interdependence—a concept interwoven throughout the Scriptures.

In His prayer for the Church (John 17), Jesus revealed His desire to the Father that we all be one, specifically so the world will believe in Him. We are a part of the Church. Working together as a people or a denomination to fulfill the Great Commission is a foregone conclusion for me.


Interdependence Is Necessary

I recently accepted the role of deputy director of field operations for the Mission. The only reason Susan and I were willing to consider giving less attention to our lifelong vocation as field workers has everything to do with our belief that Free Will Baptists can do more together to strategically impact the world. The operative words for my new position are interdependence, cohesiveness, creativity, and strategy. I won’t elaborate much on the last three words, but they all flow from the concept of interdependence. We are dependent upon God and each other. Overseas workers cannot do what we do without your help. You cannot fulfill the Great Commission without our help. It is good stewardship for field workers to work together.

The enormity of the task, coupled with the relatively meager resources at our disposal, requires creativity. We can’t afford to go about the most important job on the planet haphazardly. That calls for a Spirit-led strategy, one of my key result areas for this role. Interdependence begs for cohesiveness, from the gifts and prayers that local believers and churches contribute, to the expatriate and local workers collaborating around the globe.

I voluntarily, unashamedly, give myself to God and to you as a part of one group of His children, called Free Will Baptists, for the all-important task of fulfilling the Great Commission. Will you give yourself to God, to our movement, and to me in our common mission to impact the world for Christ? The Great Commission requires interdependence.

About the Writer: Jeff and his wife Susan were appointed as overseas workers in Spain for Free Will Baptists International Missions in 1981. Jeff received his doctorate in missiology from Biola University in 2004 and was approved as deputy director of field operations in April 2008. The Turnboughs will continue to live and minister in Spain as Jeff oversees Mission field personnel.




©2008 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists