Focal Passage: Romans 12:1-21
With Romans 12, the Apostle Paul moves to tell us how we should now live based on the great truths he has revealed in the previous 11 chapters. First, we sacrifice our bodies using them to serve the Lord for the rest of our lives. Then we are to transform our minds, no longer thinking and doing whatever we want but seeking to conform ourselves to the will of God. We may have one Lord to conform to, but each of us will conform to Him in different ways depending — not simply on our preferences — but on gifts God has given us.
There are believers with gifts of prophesy (like preaching), some who serve (like deacons, doing the practical things to help a church), some who teach, or encourage or cajole us to do our duty, or who give generously, or lead (like the elders of the church), or those who mercifully care for other members. And all of these should be done in love, always zealous for the Lord (v. 11). As for those outside the church (v. 14-21), who don’t understand us, we are to overcome their evil with good.
In a similar passage in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, Paul writes, “there are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord.”
A healthy church allows each member to operate according to his or her gifts. But every member should be doing something.
But over the past century some have taken modern individualism (everyone gets to decide for him- or herself) and relativism (that there is no absolute truth) and applied it to the church, as though there is no Lord of the church apportioning to each member “as He wills” (1 Cor. 12:11).
But Christians are all members of the one church, connected to each other (Romans 12:5). There is no such thing as the centrality of the individual in Christ’s church.
Is each local Baptist church free? That depends. Free from the Lord? No!
Free from other churches or denominational hierarchies that might dictate to the local church?
In North Carolina Baptist life churches, associations and the Baptist State Convention (BSC) are autonomous, meaning none controls another. Sometimes that breaks down in practical relationships, such as when the BSC gives an association veto power that would deny a church plant within that association BSC church planting funds. But in the main, Baptists support local church autonomy and church freedom.