In over 40 years of ministry I have enjoyed the privilege of ministering in small churches, large churches and every size in between. There are advantages and disadvantages in churches of every size. But there is value in each, also. It is my conviction that God has a purpose for every local body of Christ.
It does not take a genius to discover common characteristics in Baptist churches. On the spiritual side we can identify the truths of one Lord, one Spirit, one Father, one Word and all else that God promises every gathering of believers. But on the human side, the common denominator frequently is ego, self focus, and the desires of selfish flesh.
One destructive expression of that flesh comes in the form of corporate self-sufficiency. It is easy to convince ourselves that we do not need other churches. We have a great church; we are wonderful people; we love each other; we can do the work of the kingdom without the help of others. At least that is what we say to justify our independent, isolated activities.
Paul begins Romans 14 with a discussion on God’s principles of conscience. He talks about the exercise of conscience by respecting both the value and the practices of fellow believers. He gives a few examples. Some Christians have convictions about diet and some about Sabbath observance.
After six verses on these matters of conscience, he reminds us that we are connected to each other. We do not live independently of other believers. “For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:7-8, NASB).
In other words, the Kingdom is not about us and it’s not about our personal preferences. The church is about followers of Jesus Christ who live for the Lord. We need each other. We need to keep the focus on God together.
If we are committed to God’s Kingdom work, we can’t afford to work in an environment of isolation. Too much is at stake!
The uniqueness of Southern Baptists is our willingness to work together. We pool our resources to do missions with greater strength. We cooperate with other churches because we believe no single church can do God’s will alone. We partner in our labors because God is glorified when His people serve Him together.
It is a pitiful thing to see a church fellowship minimize the value of connecting with and working with other churches. The arrogance of that view will ultimately lead to the implosion of that local body. Pride goes before a fall.
One way to deny the dangerous path of self sufficiency is participation in the “big picture.” Attending the annual meeting in Greensboro is a great place to start. I highly value the annual meeting of North Carolina Baptists each November. It is a time to connect in fellowship, to hear what God is doing in our sister churches, to understand the vision of cooperation and to decisively commit ourselves to specific cooperative ministry and mission projects.
The wise writer of Ecclesiastes said it this way, “A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart” (Ecc. 4:12b, KJV). There is great strength in numbers. We can do so much more together!
The book of Acts tells us how the early church began and grew. They worked “together,” a word used 34 times in Acts.
- Jesus gathered His disciples together to tell them to wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4).
- As 120 believers gathered together, Peter explained to them the prophetic meaning of the crucifixion (Acts 1:15).
- On the day of Pentecost they all gathered together in one place (Acts 2:1).
- Those who had believed were together and had all things in common (Acts 2:44).
- Daily they continued with one mind, taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity (Acts 2:46).
You get the picture. They understood the power of working together. A spirit of independent isolation would quench the Spirit and destroy their mission.
My prayer for N.C. Baptists is that we will discover the awesome power of God’s purpose as we partner together to fulfill His assignment for us. Reserve time in your schedule to attend the Pastors’ Conference and the N.C. Baptist Convention, November 6-8 in Greensboro. I believe you will find fresh inspiration and renewed challenge to serve our Father as we work together for His glory.