Holding the Rope: Analogy

The year was 1792. William Carey, later dubbed the “father of the modern missionary movement,” had challenged his Baptist brethren to obey their responsibility to take the Gospel to unreached lands. Baptists of mid-England formed The Particular Baptist Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Heathen and appointed Carey and John Thomas to go to India as missionaries. In 1793, Carey said a tearful farewell to his church in Leicester, England. The Society then came together for a farewell service for Carey. Sometime during that all-day meeting, Carey met with the four leaders of the Society. Those men promised Carey that, “as he went forth in the Society’s name and their Master’s, they should never cease till death to stand by him.”

Andrew Fuller, one of those men, later described the occasion with an analogy. He said that the mission to India seemed like a few men who considered going into a deep, unexplored mine. It was as if Carey said, “Well, I will go down, if you will hold the rope.” The meeting, in Fuller’s mind, was as if he and the other brethren gave their word that “whilst we lived, we should never let go the rope.”

The analogy stuck. Missionaries today continue to go “down into the mine,” seeking to win those who have never heard and to shine the light of the Gospel into the darkest corners of humanity. These frontline soldiers of the cross continue to rely on those who “hold the rope.” The rope analogy stuck, because it pictures a biblical truth—God designed New Testament missions to be a team effort. Maybe God has not called you to be a foreign missionary. The question then is, “How do we hold the rope for the missionaries?”

Holding the Rope: Access

Just as the men of the Baptist Society faithfully “held the rope” for Carey over many years, so Baptist World Mission “holds the rope” for missionaries today. In fact, we believe the necessity of a mission agency has only grown since Carey’s day. An increasingly complex and dangerous world presents new technical challenges for today’s missionaries—challenges which are often impractical or impossible for the average local church to navigate. BWM “holds the rope” through time-tested expertise in financial, governmental, logistical and educational assistance. Through these services, BWM provides missionaries with access to foreign fields, local churches and an array of logistical support. BWM also gives missionaries access to churches by providing moral, ethical and doctrinal accountability. For the missionary, access is everything.

While the value of a mission board is highlighted for all to see during a time of crisis, the missionaries themselves best understand how BWM “holds the rope” for them every day, freeing them to focus on the work of planting churches worldwide. BWM believes monthly support for the home office or field administrators is a very wise use of foreign missionary dollars. Your prayer and financial support of the home office and its administrators are important and practical ways to “hold the rope” for the missionaries.

Holding the Rope: Affirmation

Perhaps the most important way we “hold the ropes” for missionaries is by remaining faithful to the Word of God ourselves. Missionaries rely on their supporting churches and mission board to stand firm in this day of theological drift. Our missionaries often express thankfulness that BWM has never wavered from its historical commitment to personal sanctification, separation from ecumenism and a literal, dispensational interpretation of the inspired Scriptures. Many a missionary on furlough has been disheartened to find some of his supporting churches or mission board in various stages of compromise. Instead of “holding the rope,” some are “dropping the ball,” and the consequences are grave for the missionaries, the churches and the Great Commission.

On the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary in 2011, BWM’s Board of Trustees, directors and administrators signed “A Solemn Reaffirmation,” which stated in part, “we reaffirm to our constituency and the world that our purpose is and shall continue to be carrying the Gospel to the ends of the earth through a ministry that is ‘strictly Baptistic and committed to local church ideology, biblically missionary and dedicated to the establishment of kindred Baptist churches worldwide; unquestionably separationist in affiliation and practice; and unashamedly fundamentalist in recognition of the sole authority of the Word of God’” (Reaffirmation quotes from BWM’s original mission statement).

Holding the Rope: Action

Our world has changed much since Carey and Thomas first went to India, but missionaries still depend on those who are not called to foreign missionary service to “hold the ropes” for them. The rope analogy is simply another way to illustrate God’s design for New Testament missions. The team concept is not just a good idea—it is God’s plan and our responsibility.

Christians “hold the rope” by supporting the missions programs of their local churches. In addition to prayer and sacrificial giving, there are many other ways Christians can get involved in missions, including correspondence, mission trips, serving on the missions committee or taking an interest in an MK (missionary kid). Churches not only send missionaries; they are the incubators for missionaries. The state of world missions is but a reflection of the health of the churches. Churches cannot reach the world if they are not reaching their own communities; neither can Christians reach the world if they are stained by the world. Missions is a spiritual enterprise, requiring absolute commitment from the whole body of Christ. That is a call for action.

Access, affirmation and action are three strands of the rope we must hold for our missionaries. Your support of Baptist World Mission through prayer and finances provides the access missionaries need to fields, churches and logistics. Your uncompromising commitment to Christ and the local church affirms the priority of missions in your heart and helps strengthen the home base for the missionaries. Finally, the call to “hold the rope” is a call to action. Not everyone can be a foreign missionary, but everyone can be equally committed, whether “holding the rope” or being held by it. Have you taken hold of the rope?