Narrow Convictions & Broad Activities


For a couple of years, my wife and I lived in a Canadian town between Toronto and Niagara Falls. Real estate was more affordable there, so we traded in a shorter commute for affordability. There was a very large supermarket store just 2 miles away from us. They had a groceries, furniture, clothing, and even a fitness gym. They held cooking classes and hosted birthday parties for toddlers. Shoppers drove from miles away.

I enjoyed certain aspects of the supermarket, but more often than not I went to our local market instead to grab the essentials. The local market was small, and it didn’t always have everything I wanted. But it was convenient, it was only a few hundred yards away, and the employees over time got to know us. They knew our names, our occupations, our preferences.

As I reflect on the DNA of Reaching & Teaching, I suspect that to some local churches in North America, we feel a bit like a neighborhood market. We don’t have the variety and vastness of larger organizations, but we do have most of what you need, with an assurance of quality and the promise of a tight-knit relationship.

Reaching & Teaching has often been described as “narrow.” To be clear, most sending organizations are narrow in certain ways and broad in others. For example, some organizations have a narrow geographical focus, such as Africa Inland Mission and Greater Europe Mission. Others are narrow in their strategic focus, such as Ethnos360 which focuses exclusively on unreached, unengaged people groups. Some organizations deploy a certain age-group, such as Youth With a Mission (YWAM). Still others are narrow in their specific missionary task, such as Wycliffe Bible Translators. These organizations have theological statements that range from dispensational to interdenominational.

Reaching & Teaching is intentionally narrow theologically. This limits the number of churches we can partner with. But it enables our missionaries to serve in a variety of contexts. It also ensures that our global workers will have a great deal of like-mindedness as they make mature disciples, establish healthy churches, and train local leaders together around the world.

Which distinctives foster this kind of like-mindedness?

First, we are reformed in our soteriology. We believe that God has unconditionally chosen particular individuals for salvation and that His saving grace is ultimately irresistible. Furthermore, those whom He has elected will persevere until the end. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to God’s glory alone.

Second, we are historically baptistic in our ecclesiology. We believe the Bible has specific instructions on how we should order the church. We believe the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are to be observed by local congregations. We are incredibly grateful for our friends at 9Marks; I often describe the nine marks of a healthy church as the ecclesiological engine in our missiological car. So we uphold the overlooked importance of expositional preaching, gospel doctrine, a biblical understanding of conversion and evangelism, meaningful membership, restorative church discipline, biblical discipleship, plural-elder leadership, corporate prayer, and church-focused missions. We believe these marks are biblical and therefore transcend geography, culture, and history.[1]

We are also complementarian in our understanding of men and women in the church. As Article XVI of the T4G Statement of Affirmations and Denials states, “We further affirm that the teaching office of the Church is assigned only to those men who are called of God in fulfillment of the biblical teachings and that all Christians are called to service within the body of Christ, and that God has given to both men and women important and strategic roles within the home, the Church, and the society.”[2]

We serve our church partners by ensuring their sent ones are teaming up with others who carry the same convictions on these important doctrines.

We serve our church partners and commissioned workers best when we resist the urge to broaden our theological convictions. While I understand the impulse of individuals to set aside theological differences “for the sake of the mission,” it is short-sighted to lay aside doctrines that would keep church-planting teammates from being members of the same local church back home.[3] Put differently, we serve our global workers best by reducing theological friction. Decreased theological friction leads to increased opportunities for cross-global and intraorganizational collaboration.

Reaching & Teaching is a team of reformed, baptistic, and complementarian global workers sent out from like-minded churches who cooperate to plant churches amongst unreached language groups and global cities. We partner together to train leaders and revitalize churches in extremely needy areas. Our church planting teams working among unreached language groups in Asia can collaborate with our New Testament scholars in Latin America on translation work; they can also collaborate with our pastoral trainers in Africa as they seek to raise up elders in a new church because the team in Africa has been committed to that task for years.

I’m thankful for large organizations—for the churches they’ve established around the world, the leaders they’ve trained up, and the Bible translations they’ve completed. I’m thankful for my friends serving in these large organizations and am always encouraged in the ways we get to partner together. There are indeed benefits that come along with their sheer size. 

One of my favorite stories from missions history is about the origin of the Baptist Missionary Society, which formed after several Particular Baptist churches partnered together to send out William Carey and others. It has always struck me that these churches associated together in other ways before they cooperated to send out missionaries. In fact, the Society formed at a regular meeting of these churches. The formula wasn’t complicated: like-minded churches working together, 230 years ago, to accomplish difficult, yet critical missions work.

May we at Reaching & Teaching follow in their footsteps.

[1] Mark Dever. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church.  4th ed.  Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021.


[3] I think Al Mohler’s theological triage is very helpful for missionaries and their sending churches to consider. Not only do we seek unity on these second-level issues, but we also seek like-mindedness about what is a second-level issue vs what is a third-level issue. I serve as an elder alongside men who have different eschatological positions (which is, for us, a third-level issue), but we are united on second-level issues.

Ryan Robertson

Ryan Robertson serves as President of Reaching & Teaching. He is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Missiology program at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Ryan and his wife Erin have three children and are members of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, where Ryan also serves as an elder.

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