Missions: Dare I Use The Word ‘Cooperate’?

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Sean Fericks's picture

[QUOTE ]Too many Independent Baptist Churches are isolated, not independent.[/QUOTE ]
Amen, amen, amen.

Dick Dayton's picture

Some years ago, I was introduced to Baptist Distinctives, not from an acrostic point of view, but from a theological point of view.

Foundational is that we accept the full inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of the Word of God.

As the system builds upon Scripture, we realize that our churches are to be "autonomous" rather than "independent." Autonomous churches are self governing, self supporting, accountable to Christ, and free of governmental or ecclesiastical coercion. However, in the New Testament, autonomous churches cooperated in missions, financial support of one anoither in times of crisis, and approval of recognized workers.

There are ministries that our local church participates in that we could not have if that ministry depended upon us alone. We have a camp in our state that is responsible to our churches, and they have a great ministry coming along side of us to minister to our young people and our families. We appreciate indenpendent mission agencies who help our missionaries with visa issues, tax issues, medical insurance, training and support. Their participation does not lessen our responsiblities, but helps us make wiser use of our time and talents.

The local church should be the training ground for equipping people for ministrty, and we should be building disciples. However, I also appreciate institutions of higher learning, where young people who have been prepared in their local churches can gain a more concentrated course of study. I appreciate local churches who conduct advanced classes, but not all churches are able to do that.

A danger of overemphasis upon independence is that we might get to the point where "Every man did that which was right in his own eyes." I am not accountable to an organized ecclesiastical authority, but I greatly appreciate my ministry brothers and my fellow churches. As I think upon regular contact with them, they have an "iron sharpening iron" effect, and I sense a certain degree of accountability, as well as great encouragement from my interactions with them.

Dick Dayton

Jonathan Charles's picture

This is anecdotal, my sister attends a large SBC church; they support the cooperative program, but they never see a missionary. She has attended for nearly 10 years. There has never been a missionary in a Sunday morning service (the church hardly ever has Sunday evening anymore except for special occasions like hanging the greens).

While the current independent approach is tedious, I'd like to know 1) what is given is given to missions per member in independent churches vs. the SBC w/ its cooperative approach, and 2) what is the ratio of missionaries who identify as independent to the number of independent church members, and what is the ratio of SBC missionaries to SBC church members? While the raising of support is very tedious, maybe there is an upside to, maybe independent churches give more and go more.

I think the author of the articles is pointing out a problem without a feasible cure, and maybe until we aren't sure there isn't an upside to our approach we shouldn't too quickly want change.

Greg Linscott's picture

Okay- let's consider a hypothetical solution. Consider the missionaries your church currently supports. Would you consider diverting that money from being specifically targeted to the individual missionaries and instead to the mission agencies they work with (such as Baptist Mid, Baptist World, etc)? What would be your misgivings at doing such a thing?

I know that I would find supporting a mission agency would seem to drastically de-personalize the contact we have with missionaries. Admittedly, it is hard on the missionaries to travel on deputation and furlough reporting. At the same time, it is at least somewhat easier to maintain some level of personal and local church accountability under the current system. We have had a couple of missionaries we support who have had some interpersonal conflict on the field with one another. I would like to think we have had some limited influence in the situation to encourage reconciliation (I am certain their sending churches have had more influence still). While it hasn't been the most pleasant situation, I am glad that our congregation has been aware of the situation and able to pray and be involved to the extent they have been. I don't know how this would be the case if we had the more impersonal program, especially considering we aren't a particularly prominent congregation in a large metro area.

I also wonder at another premise the first article in this series asserts- Are our missions failing- that is, the efforts on the field- or are we simply lamenting the rate at which support is being raised? It would seem that implementing a system such as is being generally hinted at would require degrees of unanimity (both in the supporting churches and the ones being established) that, for better or worse, would go against the principles of local church autonomy so many of us hold dear. Church planters would have to work alongside of each other much more closely, I wold suspect- a fact that might appeal to some, but would go against the instinct of many missionaries I have met who are often fiercely independent themselves.

I think you would have a better chance if our kinds churches cooperated more regularly in other areas. But look at how we do things like camps, colleges, and those kind of ministries. Many IFB types don't really have any kind of direct influence unless their pastors are part of a board or something- the institutions are individually established, self-governing entities (such as The Wilds or BJU, or ministries of individual churches, such as Detroit Seminary). If we can't work together to keep something like a college running, why would we think funding a large, centralized missionary agency would be destined for better success? Furthermore, what would make such an agency for foreign missionaries advisable, but a centralized agency that placed pastors in local churches not so desirable?

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN