Free Will Baptist Home Missions Marks a Milestone
by David Crowe
This year (2013), the Home Missions Department celebrates 75 years of organized history. In 1938, just three short years after the National Association was formed, the young denomination voted the department into existence. The Foreign Missions Department had already been established to be the evangelistic arm of Free Will Baptists around the world.
Those early leaders understood that in order to fulfill the Great Commission, Free Will Baptists needed a strong and solid foundation in North America from which to send missionaries to the ends of the earth. The National Home Mission Board was established to plant churches in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. Territories in order to strengthen the base of churches that already existed in North America.
Founded on the Past
Today, Home Missions is solidly founded on the past. We have a rich history of church planting and soul winning over the past 75 years. We don’t live in the past, but we understand that we exist today as a result of the lives, ministries, and sacrifices of many men and women God called into home missions. Some of the greatest soul winners and church planters among us have served as general directors of the department, men like Harry Staires, Damon Dodd, Homer Willis, Bob Shockey, Roy Thomas, Trymon Messer, and Larry Powell. Many of the finest families in the denomination have served as church planters, and hundreds of Free Will Baptist churches have been started across North America over the last 75 years.
Today, the primary task of Home Missions is to plant churches by winning people to Christ and preaching the gospel message. We stand on a foundation formed by the dedication, commitment, hard work, and determination of those who have gone before us. We understand that who and what we are today has been shaped by these accomplishments.
We don’t worship the past, but we can honor the past and the people who are a part of that history. If we fail to understand where we have been as a department or as a denomination, we will fail to understand where we need to go in the future.
Faithful to the Present
At Home Missions, while we love our past and learn from our past, we must not live in the past. We face challenges in this world and nation that we have never faced before. The culture around us is changing on a daily basis. People have more baggage in their lives and deal with more issues today than at any other time in modern history.
While Home Missions continues to operate today on the same philosophy of church planting and soul winning, we realize we must find new ways to connect with people from all walks of life. We must be faithful to learn to reach people of all races, cultures, and even languages now represented in North America.
We must learn from the mistakes of the past as well as the successes. We must do a better job of training mission families to reach people who are “different.” Our missionaries encounter people who look different, sound different, act different, and think different than they do. This is our mission field today! As certainly as we are founded on our past, we understand that we must always strive to be faithful to the present.
Focused on Progressing for the Future
As much as I love our history, and as much as I enjoy ministering for Home Missions in the present, I have a tremendous desire and burden to understand where we go from here. We must plant more churches and win more souls for Christ and the kingdom. Local churches must be challenged to parent churches in addition to supporting mission works established by mission departments. We must have more coordinated cooperation between district and state associations in partnership with National and International Missions.
We must continue to promote the “team” concept in church planting, so churches can be planted and become self-supporting in shorter periods of time. This will allow team members to start other churches in surrounding areas. That way, we are not planting a single church to struggle on its own, but planting associations of churches that can support one another. We must allow missionaries the freedom to use the gifts, abilities, and personalities God has given them to plant a church, win souls, and see that church become a local, autonomous, self-supporting Free Will Baptist church.
As Home Missions celebrates 75 years of church planting and soul winning, we understand we are here because of the foundation of our past. We are sincerely doing our best—with God’s help—to be faithful to the present, and as we look ahead, we are focusing on how God would allow us to progress into the future!
To conclude this article, I want to leave you with a quote. I wish I could tell you this quote was from a spiritual source, but I must be honest. I heard this while watching a movie with my two grandsons. The movie was “Kung-Fu Panda.” (I know what you’re thinking, but you do a lot of things with your grandchildren that you never thought you would do.) In the movie, a wise, old turtle said, “The past is history; the future is a mystery; the present is a gift, and that’s why it is called the ‘present.’” We can’t change the past, and we don’t know the future, but God has given us the gift of the present. Let us be faithful to that gift.
About the Writer: David Crowe is director of development for Free Will Baptist Home Missions. Learn more at www.homemissions.net.