In this first talk from our Sunday evening series, The Southern Baptist Convention & Our Future, Pastor Adam Triplett lays out a Biblical case for local churches partnering together with other Christians near and far. While giving Biblical support for being both independent and interdepend, he also highlights the benefits and pitfalls of partnering with others. He closes the talk by calling on the church to ask four fundamental questions when considering partnerships in the future. You can find a summary of the talk below.
INTRODUCTION: AIM & PURPOSE OF THESE TALKS
- To review the good of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), while ultimately holding out a better way forward for our church.
- Over the last three to four years the pastors of WPBC have come to believe it is most wise to depart from the SBC and pursue more fruitful partnerships with other churches and ministries.
- These talks are given to persuade the congregation of this move from reasonable & hopeful standpoint, while also being honest and forthright about why we think this is best.
BIBLICAL CASE FOR PARTNERING WITH OTHERS
- Big question before us: Should churches be independent or interdependent?
- According to the New Testament, both!
- In Acts 8 the evangelist, Philip has been engaged in a great ministry in Samaria. When the apostles in Jerusalem hear of this work, they dispatch Peter and John to the city (Acts 8:14).
- In Acts 11 the Jerusalem church sends Barnabas to Antioch after they hear of their great need and know Barnabas to a great encourager. After arriving and seeing this new fellowship, Barnabas exhorted them “to remain true to the Lord with a firm resolve of heart” (11:24). Barnabas then traveled to Tarsus and asked Saul to return with him to Antioch, and the two of them “met with the church and taught large numbers” for a year.
- In Acts 15 the “Jerusalem Council” constitutes a third time in which the Jerusalem church makes a contribution to others. Some “men from Judea” came to Antioch and were causing trouble. The church at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to consult with the Christians there concerning the matter (Acts 15:2-3). This conference was initiated by Antioch, not by Jerusalem, so that this was not a matter of the “home church” dictating policy unsolicited. The Jerusalem church met, with elders, apostles, and the other members of the church all participating (15:4, 12, 22). The church in Jerusalem then decided to send a letter to Antioch, answering their questions and making minimal suggestions to them (“to put no greater burden on you than these necessary things”). They sent the letter “to the brothers” of the churches in question, not to the pastors (15:23). When the church at Antioch received the letter, they were marked by joy because of its encouragement (15:31).
- The New Testament also demonstrates other kinds of cooperative ministry. Notably, financial support for other churches factors highly in several of Paul’s letters (Rom. 15:26; 1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 8-9)
- Along with this, in Romans 16:1-2 Paul commends Phoebe, who is from Cenchrea, to the church in Rome and encourages the Roman Christians to receive her and assist her in any way they can.
- Finally throughout Paul’s missionary journeys and letters we see clear evidence of a cross-involvement of many individuals and local churches in working together to see the Kingdom of God and the gospel of Jesus spread further and further to the ends of the earth.
- In each example, there is a sense of independence among the churches, while also being marked by an understood need and gift of partnering with other Christians and other churches.
A BROAD UNDERSTANDING OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION
- At it’s beginning (May 1845), this is interdependent independence is what the Southern Baptist Convention was created to be.
- This is a good place to note that the SBC is not a denomination — like baptists, methodists, presbyterians, lutherans, etc.
- The SBC has labored to be a cooperation of local churches; pooling their funds, resources and manpower to establish and encourage Kingdom-building endeavors. Examples of this include:
- North American Mission Board
- International Mission Board
- Disaster Relief
- The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
- Lifeway Christian Resources
- The main goal in each of these has been to bring the church together in their witness and proclamation of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
THE POSSIBLE PITFALLS OF PARTNERING TOGETHER
- While we see the Biblical case for partnerships and understand the ultimate aim of the SBC, we must also take note of the possible pitfalls that may come when churches, organization and entities partner together.
- Resource monopolization — The cooperative may begin using resources to benefit only those who are deemed worthy or most beneficial.
- Financial capitalization — Money can become the chief end and the cooperation aims to gain as much financial capital, no matter the doctrinal costs.
- Power plays — People begin to believe they could do a better job leading the cooperative if they were in charge, so they pursue power and control over others within the organization.
- Bloated membership – The cooperation becomes too large, creating the inability to make necessary changes and causing the structure to become confusing for everyday members.
- Mission malpractice — The cooperative begins using methods and means to achieve pursuit of a mission that is no longer Biblical or agreed upon by the whole group. (ie. Worldliness of methods)
- Doctrinal drift — The cooperative begins to drift away from Scripture and its core beliefs in order to maintain a perceived unity, bring about quick growth or continue to hold favor with the world. (ie. Worldliness of belief)
THE BENEFITS OF PARTNERING TOGETHER
Just because there are possible pitfalls does not mean that we should avoid partnering with others altogether. Below are four of the great benefits that can come and make partnering with others worth pursuing.
- Partnering with others helps to clarify what we believe: To who we should partner with we must agree on the standards we will hold to and hold others to.
- Partnering with others allows different & further ministry: We must realize we are not able to accomplish all that God has called the Church to be about. Partnering allows us to go further and fuller.
- Partnering with others allows us to have a collective witness: In a world where Christians are hated and disdained, by partnering together (particularly locally) we are able to stand as a united force, storming the gates of hell and building up one another on a larger scale.
- Partnering with others displays the beauty of future the Bride of Christ: When we join together with other Christians, though we may have differences that preclude us from joining together as a church, we are able to display a small sliver of what life will be like in eternity, when God gathers together all His people as the Bride of Christ.
CONCLUSION: WHAT WE OUGHT TO ASK OF THE SBC & OUR OWN FUTURE
If we are going to move forward in light of these pitfalls and benefits, there are several helpful questions we can begin asking to both protect us and set us up for fruitful cooperation with other churches and ministries in the days to come.
- Do they doctrinally align? (Jude 1:3)
- Do they value the local church? (Hebrews 10:24-25)
- Do they remain unstained by the world? (Romans 12:1-2)
- Can we partner with individuals better than organizations? (Acts 11:19-26)