Sunday, May 31, 2009

Conventions, Associations, Fellowships, and the Autonomy of the Local Church

I believe in the Local Church. I believe that a true Church will be an independent, fundamental, Bible believing, Baptistic Church. (I say Baptistic because not everywhere will you find Baptist Churches in name; but they will be Baptistic in doctrine) I do not believe that any entity shall have any iota of authority, or sway over, or in a Local Church. I believe that the Local Church is the power head for the work of God in our age, and also the Bride of Christ himself. Due to these facts it is vitally important that we handle the Church in the manner that is befitting to Christ. There have been in relatively recent times many things come on the scene that may help, or also may hinder the workings of the Local Church, viz. Conventions, Associations, and Fellowships. I do not attempt to take to the fringe on any subject, and while dealing with this subject there are certainly those on the fringe. I fear that such stands will only marginalize us to those who are astute to the subject matter.

Today we have a few groups that have convened into what they term as "Conventions" such as the "Southern Baptist Convention",and the "Northern Baptist Convention". I believe it to be worthy to consult the dictionary for the clear definition of what a "Convention" is.

Convention: An assembly, as of delegates, to act on matters of common concern.

With the term defined we can readily see that there is already, in my opinion, an infringement on the autonomy of the Local Church. Any time that a group will be acting on a matter of common concern, it should always and only be "The" Local Church. There should never be a time when any group (whether made up of Church members or not) should have any say over what a Church is doing, and when acting as a Convention with real or supposed authority, they will inevitably infringe upon the desire of a Church. We also see commonly practiced within the forenamed conventions, that they will routinely ask for, and pressure Churches to give to different mission efforts through the Convention, thus leaving the Church without any say as to where, or who this is going to. I find this both unscriptural, and unethical for the Convention, and furthermore I find it reprehensible, and cowardly for a Church to allow them this power over them. I will not, at this time deal with the liberalness we find so rampant within these organizations,but may take this up at some later time.

Along with Conventions, we also have today Associations such as the "American Baptist Association", "Baptist Missionary Association", and others. We again will find the definition to be helpful in searching whether or not these are appropriate for a Church to be a part of or not.

Association: An organization of people with a common purpose 2. the act of associating

This definition would be wonderful for a Local Church, and this certainly should be true for a Church, but what about a group? In dealing with this one must look at just who they are associating themselves with, and make their judgement from there. Although there are some who will say that they do not associate with anybody, under any circumstances; I believe them to be on the fringe of the issue. There are very few Churches that can have a vibrant, active ministry reaching the lost for Christ without having anything to do with any other Church. I believe that whether we mean to or not, we all have some degree of association with another Church. When we make these associations, friendships, or partnerships we should always do so, not based on associational ties ("Well he's Bills friend, and I don't know him, but I will join up with him because I like Bill."), but rather based upon mutual agreements, and understanding. If an association is like this there is no problem with it , but we see today that there are many of the same characteristics between the named Associations and the previously discussed Conventions; certainly there will be as well, because these Associations are protestant to the Conventions. When any entity, other than a Local Church has the ability to accept or deny a missionary, they have taken the autonomy from the Church, and given it to a committee.

In more recent years there have risen groups termed fellowships; these have remained fewer in number, and never grown to the scale of the Conventions or Associations. There is a number of them that operate as groups within groups, viz. such and such county Baptist fellowship. The term fellowship by definition is:

Fellowship: Friendly relationship, companionship.

This term, as far as terms go is the least intrusive into the autonomy of a Church. This (fellowship) is what many Churches have with Conventions and Associations. (There are many good Churches within both Conventions and Associations) With this term being used it places a far greater responsibility upon the Churches to know who they are in fellowship with, due to what the Bible says about our fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. There are such groups as the Southwide Baptist Fellowship that have grown to greater levels, and typically when they do so, as with any group they begin taking on more authority over the Churches, and thus become unscriptural.

We can see that there are certainly many Churches within all three of these groups that are good, sound, God fearing Churches; but we also see the very opposite as well. This is a subject that has roots in the Bible, as we see many Churches working together to get the gospel around the world, and this was the goal of these groups when they had their foundation. What we observe though, is over time they begin to take on some sort of authority, and hinder their own beginning purpose. The Conventions have taken over many Churches, while claiming to help, they have destroyed the Churches. This happens when the Church gets off of it's foundation, and starts relying on a convention rather than Christ. Associations have also infiltrated the work of Christ, and rather a Church choosing their missionaries, they allow an Association to tell them who they should and should not support. This shows utter spiritual weakness within a Church when they cannot discern a good missionary from a bad. Fellowships are just as likely to take on the same attributes as Conventions , and Associations when they begin to expand in size, and influence. Does this mean that there are no good things within each of these groups? No! There is some good in each of them , but there is error as well. This error is of a dangerous kind, because it will undermine the autonomy of the Church, and that will destroy the Church eventually. This is what our Baptist forefathers held to be important enough to go to the stake and burn for; for at any time they could have turned the Church over to Rome, or England, or any of the other countries, and went scott free. These men gave their lives rather than give up the Church; why should we give it over today to ANY group civil, religious, governmental or otherwise today?!


llamarf said...

Excellent article

Pastor D.Hayes said...

I concur

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