THE BAPTIST FAITH AND MESSAGE, Article Seventeen
This is Part 17 of a continuing series of articles examining the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. This statement of faith was adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting on June 14, 2000 “to set forth certain teachings which we believe.”
Christ's people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner. Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ's Kingdom. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ's people. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.*
I will have the opportunity to address the 125th Anniversary Celebration of the Buncombe Baptist Association on Monday, October 8. It is a special time of remembering our missionary heritage with a challenge to future expanded efforts to reach lost souls. We will gather with other Buncombe Baptists at our sister church in Candler—New Morgan Hill—in their new sanctuary beginning at 6:30 that night under the theme, “That the World May Know Him.” Although we can only have ten voting messengers for the business of the association, we can have many guests and so I want to invite all of you to come and worship with us!
Our participation in the Buncombe Baptist Association, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the Southern Baptist Convention is of our own choosing. This church is autonomous—as are all Baptist churches. I found it humorous recently when someone sent in a report of their mission work to me and stated they had planted several independent Baptist churches. My response to them was, “Is there any other kind?”
No Pope, bishop, presbytery or other ecclesiastical body can dictate what we believe and how we behave. This church has one ruler—Jesus Christ, the Lord! It has one creed—the Bible! Our decisions are made prayerfully—under the direction of the Holy Spirit (hopefully) within the local congregation.
Yet, we must be mindful of the prayer of that same Lord Jesus in John 17, where He pleads with the Father to make His followers one. Unity and cooperation in love is a mark of the true follower of Christ. As we look around at those attending the Associational meeting we will be reminded of the rich tapestry God has woven together in our churches. Diverse people—the multi-colored threads—of Baptist witness. We are not all identical, yet there is a spiritual unity in a common faith in an uncommon Savior and a fervent purpose to fulfill the Great Commission that binds us together.
That does not mean we need dilute our faith, watering it down to the lowest common denominator. Rather it means that where we find those Bible-believing Christians that we embrace them as brothers and sisters and work arm in arm to advance the Kingdom message. Indeed, we go beyond just cooperation with Baptists, but those of other denominational affiliation to impact our world.
There are parameters beyond which we may not go. Some “Christian” churches and denominations are not “Christian” at all—but apostate. They have left the faith. We pray for them to repent, but we cannot experience true spiritual fellowship in the Gospel, for they preach another gospel. Paul pronounced anathema on all such and we must. But, when a people subscribes to the fundamentals of the faith, we may disagree with them on some secondary matters, and still work together as the people of God.
Here’s the bottom line: we can do more together than we can ever do alone. Even the greatest mega-church has its limitations. But through cooperation in the cause of Christ, we are impacting millions around this world and generations to come! Isn’t that exciting!
* Exodus 17:12; 18:17ff.; Judges 7:21; Ezra 1:3-4; 2:68-69; 5:14-15; Nehemiah 4; 8:1-5; Matthew 10:5-15; 20:1-16; 22:1-10; 28:19-20; Mark 2:3; Luke 10:1ff.; Acts 1:13-14; 2:1ff.; 4:31-37; 13:2-3; 15:1-35; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:5-15; 12; 2 Corinthians 8-9; Galatians 1:6-10; Ephesians 4:1-16; Philippians 1:15-18. (Baptist Faith and Message, 2000)