CAMBRIDGE, MA (BP) -- Several times each year we offer a membership class at our church outlining what it means to be a member, how we function as a church, what we believe, etc. One of the questions we address each time, because it is regularly raised, is "Why do we choose to cooperate as a part of the Southern Baptist Convention?"
Here are a few reasons why, within the SBC, we think we are better together:
A shared theological commitment
Local churches and church plants who cooperate with the SBC agree with "The Baptist Faith and Message 2000." Depending on who you ask, you may hear that this document is quite broad or that it is too narrow.
However, I believe the BF&M provides a sound theological tent under which there can be significant theological differences alongside the confidence that you are cooperating with truly like-minded churches around the country.
Centered in local autonomous churches
The SBC is designed to be led not from the top, but from the bottom -- to be led by local churches. These local churches, which are autonomous, make the decisions that lead, rather than the decisions being made by a small group of people at the top. Every entity ultimately is accountable to local churches.
Missionary vision and entities
Personally, I didn't grow up in a Southern Baptist church and had little interaction with them until college. The missionary vision and commitment is what initially attracted me to join a Southern Baptist church and it is one of the key elements that has kept me in the convention.
From this missionary vision, the SBC has developed two excellent mission entities, the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board. Of course, no entity is perfect, but I am more encouraged than ever about the work currently being done through these two organizations.
We are excited as a church to cooperate directly with both NAMB church planters and IMB missionaries. And through our giving, we also have the chance to cooperate on a regional level by supporting the work of the Baptist Convention of New England that helps to impact our own area.
Opportunity to join the work no matter your congregation's size
Through the Cooperative Program, any size church can join in financially supporting missions in North America and around the world. Initially, it can be challenging for a small church plant to engage in giving to Great Commission work and to find a conduit for that giving. The Cooperative Program in the SBC serves as a great tool for this.
Infrastructure to help equip and carry out the mission
In order to train up and send out people to join in Gospel work around the world, infrastructure is necessary. In any organization, it is a temptation for infrastructure to grow to an unhealthy level, and this has been true at times in the SBC. However, we currently have solid infrastructure, such as the six SBC seminaries that do an excellent job of training future pastors and planters, as well as entities like the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, LifeWay Christian Resources and GuideStone Financial Resources that serve churches in a wide variety of ways.
Like any family, the SBC is certainly not perfect. I get frustrated at times, and there are changes I'd like to see. However, I believe the SBC is an excellent channel for our local church to cooperate with as we seek to do Gospel work in our region and join in Great Commission work around the world. I'm thankful for the good work that is happening and I look forward to what may be accomplished in the future as we cooperate together.