A Theology of Risk for NCBM
The work of short-term volunteer missionaries can involve high levels of risk and danger to their safety. The risks can be in the form of physical accidents, medical emergencies, criminal activities, political upheavals, health issues and natural disasters. For those willing to take the risk, it is important for them to know an organization’s philosophy toward risk so that the individual can determine if he or she wants to serve as a volunteer through that organization. It is with that in mind that this statement is prepared.
What has God called us to do? The purpose of North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM, also known as Baptists On Mission) is to help churches involve their members in missions. A core belief of NCBM is that all Christians are called, gifted and sent. All Christians are called ( 2 Corinthians 5:17-18) to be missionaries. All Christians have unique gifts (Romans 12:6-8) and all believers are called to use those gifts in missions as God leads. All Christians are sent (John 20:21) into the world to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-14) for the glory of God.
Every year, NCBM helps thousands of volunteers (men, women and students) to be involved in missions. There has been tremendous growth in the missions efforts of NCBM over the past 30 years. We believe that God has led NCBM to be involved in certain projects and ministries. God has opened doors for NCBM to be involved in certain partnerships, disasters, local, state, national and international mission projects. God has allowed NCBM to be involved in a small part of what He is doing in the world. We believe that God has called Christians to go to all peoples and nations and share the gospel of saving grace with the understanding that we may face accidents, illnesses and difficulties.
How should NCBM think about risk in light of our purpose and in light of God’s providence? As we think about these things, we should begin with some general thoughts about the providence of God.
God’s providence involves the continuing work of God where all things in the universe are directed and controlled by God. God’s wise plan is carried out, generally, by the establishment and outworking of natural laws and principles, which are part of God’s good and wise work of creation. God’s providence also includes his unique, purposeful, and special intervention into the natural process to accomplish his will, which we refer to as miracles.
God’s providence at times also transcends human affairs, taking difficult and challenging situations and using them for good (Gen. 50:20; Rom. 8:28). We believe that God has a plan and a purpose for all things, even those things that we don’t understand (Eccl. 9:11). We believe God’s providence points to God’s wise and wonderful plan for this world, part of which has been revealed to us but which is finally incomprehensible in its totality to us in this life (Deut. 29:29).
God’s plan is from all eternity (Eph. 3:11). Nothing catches God by surprise. God’s plan, as with all of his thoughts and actions, is always consistent with his nature. While God’s plan is effective, this does not mean that the plan forces his creatures to act in a certain way. God’s plan allows humans a free will to act in ways consistent with their nature. It is the element of human freedom that raises the reality of risk in all of life’s endeavors, and the reality of sin that is rampant in the world that causes us to think about these things in light of our organizational responsibility.
Thoughts on Risk
God’s plan ultimately centers on Jesus Christ, who revealed God perfectly and taught his followers about the Kingdom of God. Jesus urged his followers to live in light of a coming day of reckoning. Jesus knew that obedience to the will of God would involve his own suffering and death.
Jesus’ commitment to his Father’s will called for a life of Kingdom faithfulness, rejecting self-interest, and, if necessary, self-protection. Jesus’ own self-sacrifice provides a model and standard for his followers (Matt. 10:38; 16:24-26; 19:21-30).
If Jesus’ followers are to live in accordance with the Kingdom teachings, they must be willing to live faithfully in spite of the twists and turns of life, always being open to God’s guidance. Such a life is willing to take risks for the sake of the Kingdom (Matt. 25:14-30).
Providence and Risk
The tension of providence and risk reflects the tension of our dual citizenship (Phil. 3); we are citizens of this world and citizens of the Kingdom yet to come. Providence and risk also reflect the tensions of living in the orderly world as created by God and a fallen world that is affected by sin. Providence and risk are extensions of the struggle between a confidence in God’s sovereignty and the reality of human freedom and responsibility.
It is in light of these things that we live by faith, a faith that gives assurance and pleases God (Heb. 11:1, 6), and a faith that calls Christ-followers to a life without immediate answers (Heb. 11:8). In the midst of this tension, we recognize that God’s grace not only enables us to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, but also gives us the opportunity, if so called, to suffer for his sake (Phil 1:29).
NCBM has a legacy of volunteers who have given their lives for the gospel. Lives have been lost through travel, accidents and illness. NCBM has been blessed with volunteers who were willing to take risks or to go to difficult places because the love of Christ compelled them to go to minister to lost and hurting people.
Safety of volunteers is always in the forefront of the minds of the leadership of NCBM; however, there is urgency for mankind to hear the message of the gospel. There is also an understanding that missions work is often dangerous. NCBM will not cower from its task of involving Christians in missions and sharing the love of Christ with hurting people.
- Our purpose at NCBM is to help involve Christians in local, state, national and international volunteer missions. This will involve risk and danger to our volunteers and staff.
- We must be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in terms of which projects, ministries and partnerships we are to be involved in. We also want our volunteers to be prayerful about God’s leadership concerning the projects, ministries or partnerships that God leads them to be involved in.
- We will do what we can to assess and determine the risk or danger in those areas in which volunteers work.
- We will strive to prepare our volunteers to live by faith as Kingdom citizens in the global world of the 21st Century. We live and serve with confidence in God’s gracious and guiding providence. We want to encourage our volunteers to live faithfully as Kingdom citizens, with a trust and hope in Christ alone, who is our only comfort in life and in death, and who calls us to a life of faith and service.
- We seek God’s wisdom to balance the tensions in shaping a missional vision for our volunteers, who are called to faithful service in a fallen world that can be characterized by non-Christian influences, economic unrest, poverty, war, and terrorism. We seek God’s wisdom to live with confidence in his providence and the realities of our stewardship and responsibility for the volunteers and ministries of NCBM.