WHY WE COOPERATE AS SOUTHERN BAPTISTS
Several times each year we offer a Membership Class that outlines what it means to be a member, how we function as a church, what we believe, etc. One of the questions that we address each time because it is regularly raised is why do we choose to cooperate as a part of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Here are a few reasons for me and for our congregation:
A shared theological commitment
Local churches and church plants who cooperate with the SBC agree with the Baptist Faith and Message. Depending on who you ask you may hear that this document is quite broad or that it is too narrow. However, I believe that this document provides a sound theological tent under which there can be significant theological differences and still one can have 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. It is designed 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 an SBC church and had little interaction with them until college. The missionary vision and commitment is what initially attracted me to join an SBC church and it is one of the key elements that has continued to keep me. From this missionary vision, the SBC has developed two excellent mission agencies in the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. Of course, no agency is perfect but I am more encouraged than ever about the work currently being done through these two groups. We are excited as a church to cooperate directly with both NAMB church planters and IMB missionaries. And through our giving, we have the chance to also 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 the size of your congregation
Through the cooperative program any size of church can join in financially supporting missions in North America and around the world. As a very small church plant initially it can be a challenge to engage your congregation in giving to Great Commission work and to find a conduit for that giving. The cooperative program in the SBC can serve 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 the gospel work around the world, it often takes some infrastructure. In any organization, it is a temptation for infrastructure to grow to an unhealthy level and this is true at times in the SBC. However, some really solid infrastructure exists like the 6 SBC seminaries that do an excellent job of training future pastors and planters as well as entities like the ERLC, Guidestone and Lifeway that serve churches in a wide variety of way.
Like any family, the SBC is certainly not perfect. I get frustrated at times and there are changes that I’d like to see. However, I believe the SBC is an excellent group 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.
Curtis Cook is senior pastor of Hope Fellowship Church in Cambridge, Mass.