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June-July 2018

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The Heartbeat of Free Will Baptists

By Tracy Payne


From earliest days, Free Will Baptist women have been involved in the ministry of the denomination. When Benjamin Randall formed the first church in the North at New Durham, New Hampshire, 13 of the 20 charter members were women. With those numbers, it is fairly safe to assume those 13 women were involved. Since that moment, women throughout the denomination’s history have fulfilled crucial roles.

In the 1800s, the Freewill Baptist Female Missionary Society pioneers sent missionaries to India and supplied funding and teachers to Storer College, the first college for slaves freed after the Civil War. Today, the spiritual daughters of those pioneers continue to blaze new trails as WNAC, a denominational department specializing in global women’s ministries, supporting ministry efforts around the world. While many things change, some things remain constant—women’s ministries minister!

Just as families change over time, the same is true in ministry. Women navigate the sometimes difficult waters of change fairly well. We watch children become adults, see our parents age, and sometimes even lose our spouses. How do we encourage this wonderful gift of flexibility in our women’s ministry? The answer is information partnered with encouragement.

We do not have the sole responsibility of placing missionaries on their fields of calling. Neither do the women of our movement have the task of securing teachers for colleges and universities. Yet we continue to fulfill our role as helpmeets and stewards who exist to help each woman fulfill the Great Commission through her God-designed roles in the home, church, community and world.

Before the 1935 merger brought the denomination together as the National Association of Free Will Baptists, women had organized for purposes of ministry. Local groups met in churches under names such as “Women’s Home Mission,” “Ladies Aid Society,” “Women’s Work,” or “Women’s Bible Club.” Depending on the heartbeat of each group, they concentrated on ministry to various causes, such as missions, education, stewardship, the Temperance Movement, and social issues such as soup kitchens and orphanages.

Does this sound much different from current trends in women’s ministry? Almost every local church has at least one group of women meeting with a shared point of interest. One group might share a Bible study each time they meet, while another meets to minister to women in the local jail or homeless shelter. A group is focused on an afternoon club for community children, while another group seeks out elderly women to become involved in Bible studies.

Whatever the “heartbeat” of your group, it means you are alive. Whatever you call yourself—Women’s Worth, R.E.A.L., L.I.F.T., Heartbeats, Soul Seekers, Heart and Home, or Women Active for Christ—it means you are part of Free Will Baptist women’s ministry, and we can still accomplish amazing things together.

About the Writer: Tracy Payne earned a B.S. in Theology and Psychology from Randall University in 1983. She is worship coordinator for West Tulsa FWB Church (Oklahoma), a member of the WNAC board, and president of Oklahoma WAC. A pastor’s wife and mother of five, Tracy is a frequent speaker at women’s events.

©2018 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists