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passion with purpose

Principles for being intentional in an era of global opportunity.

by Steve Lytle

To find out more about Free Will Baptist International Missions, visit the website:

WE LIVE IN A NEW ERA OF MISSIONS. Unlike previous generations when only career missionaries went overseas to spread the gospel, today we have the means, the motivation, and the opportunity to do so much more. We now see local church mission trips; short-term lay missionary involvement; small, loosely organized mission agencies; and networking with national churches.

I have served both as a career missionary (25 years in Panama) and a mission agency administrator (six years) with Free Will Baptist International Missions. Neverhave I been so excited about the potential for every Free Will Baptist to be involved in global evangelism.It’s a great time to be alive and responding to God’s challenge to reach the nations. However, we must also intentionally and carefully consider every step. We cannot allow our passion to be unchecked by sound biblical and missions thinking.

At International Missions, we are committed to uniting Free Will Baptists around the cause of planting churches overseas. As we do so, we adhere to three guiding principles.

1. Develop and maintain a dynamic partnership between the local church, the missionary, and the sending agency.

The National Association of Free Will Baptists established FWBIM to serve all of our churches by bringing resources and expertise together for one purpose—planting churches overseas. 

In addition to strategic coordination, the working relationship between International Missions and our church partners requires trust, accountability, and communication. In spite of the complexity involved in recruiting, training, and sending missionaries and in supporting national works, we remain committed to investing in our relationship with partnering churches. Free Will Baptist International Missions is grateful for the opportunity to work with over 100 career missionaries and in close partnership with a growing number of mission-minded pastors and local churches who value the strategic coordination we provide.

2. Foster mutual cooperation and respect between the missionary, the national church, and the sending partners in the matter of finances.

This new era of missions has brought an unprecedented opportunity for partnering with national workers and leaders. While God has blessed the West financially and we need to give generously, agencies must be cautious in dispensing financial assistance. At Free Will Baptist International Missions we subsidize some national work, usually in the areas of church-planting efforts, property acquisition, and building construction. This must be done carefully…guided in ways that will enhance, not endanger, the national church’s self-sufficiency.

Joys and Dangers of Financial Partnership

What a privilege to partner financially with sister national church organizations in India, Cuba, Central Asia, Uruguay, and other countries. Free Will Baptists have helped to subsidize church buildings, Bible institute and seminary facilities, and major church-planting efforts. Yet, we try to be sensitive to the dangers of creating unhealthy dependency and demeaning the relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We caution all who wish to participate in direct missions involvement to be cognizant of the potential negative outcomes, such as:

  • Stifling the initiative of the receiving church,

  • Creating addiction to Western money,

  • Creating non-reproducible models (The national church lacks the financial resources or manpower to replicate what the “Mission” did.),

  • Delaying indigenous growth because of too much Western influence.

Often churches founded with foreign money become dependent on it and feel they can't do God's work unless they get money from someone else,”mission leader Glenn Schwartz wrote.Sadly, this dependency mentality is a serious and widespread problem.” We don’t want overseas churches to feel they can’t send out missionaries because they don’t have the same resources as Americans.

Avoiding the Trap of Paternalism

We also want to avoid the condition known as paternalism: dependence on the missionary, much as a child is dependent on a parent. William Kornfield explains, “Paternalism creates dependency. Financial paternalism separates the people who get the money from those who do not. When church leaders receive such increased income, which often is several times greater than their peers', jealousy and strife often ensue.”

Mr Kronfield continued with an example, “Among the Quechua Indian believers in the Andes Mountain area of Latin America, indiscriminate outside financial support is an ever increasing problem. Previously the Quechuas were self-supporting and self-propagating, but now—because of financial paternalism…they are divided. A number of Quechua churches supported by foreign funds no longer have the same vision to reach the lost as they once did when self-supporting.”

We pray the Lord will continue to give us wisdom as we work with the emerging national church around the world. We strive to partner with them in ways that encourage them to take the lead so the work will continue to grow.

3. Commit to mobilize believers for hands-on involvement in the Great Commission.

We believe partnership between U.S. churches and churches planted overseas can have profound impact. The Bethany FWB Church in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, has a sister church relationship with the Good News Baptist Church in Chelyabinsk, Russia. Dr. Doug Earls and his congregation in Buffalo, Missouri, have partnered in several projects with FWB mission churches in Panama. This is a growing trend, and one we gladly encourage.

The Danger of “Re-Amateurization”

Unfortunately, as is common, there can be a downside. As we connect with overseas churches we must be sure to avoid “zeal without knowledge.” If missions is viewed as “anyone, who will go anytime, to anywhere, to do anything, for any reason,” we have a problem. One mission statesman referred to this trend as the “re-amateurization of missions.”

As more laymen, pastors, colleges, and local churches become directly involved in overseas ministry activity, care must be exercised. Good mobilization takes into consideration requests from field personnel and national church cooperation. It is important to complement, not compete with, field strategy. And it is absolutely critical to adequately train those who are going in matters of cultural adjustment and sensitivity.

Following the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, so many Westerners sought to minister in the churches, local pastors often did not get to preach for weeks on end. Many Westerners settled as resident missionaries, yet preached for years through interpreters, not bothering to learn the local language and culture. Desiring to do great good, well-meaning Christians from the West can do major damage.

In this new era of world missions, we thank God for those who are motivated to go, to give, to pray. Mission trips and short-term ministries can greatly advance Kingdom work. Free Will Baptist International Missions is thrilled to be working with our churches, pastors, and individuals to effectively channel our energies to church planting overseas.

I’m convinced it will take total commitment, with both passion and principle, to evangelize the unreached of our world. We at Free Will Baptist International Missions offer our assistance, expertise, and experience to the entire FWB denomination. We’re here to serve you!

Steve Lytle became director of field operations for FWBIM in February of 2000. He and his wife Judy ministered almost 25 years in Panama as church-planting career missionaries.

THE MOBILIZATION TEAM of Free Will Baptist International Missions can help you in a variety of ways:

  • Discovering opportunities for volunteer service with our missionaries

  • Planning and leading effective mission trips

  • Cultivating partnership with missionaries

  • Training for cross-cultural ministry trips

  • Mobilizing your church for missions involvement

  • Preparing for missionary service

Find your global opportunity at, email Doug Little at, or call toll-free (877) 767-7736.






©2005 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists