I stumbled across a site while researching for a paper I’m writing today. The post I found was comically sarcastic and truthful. I thought it may be of interest to some of you.
Recently over at SharperIron, several independent (who happen to be independent until it comes to higher theological education, missions, and Christian camping) Baptists have voiced their displeasure over the amount of time and energy being spent in discussing the GARBC and Cedarville. ShaperIron founder and blog extraordinaire, Jason Janz entered the fray with this comment:
“Can anybody explain to me why you would join the GARBC, the FBF, or any ecclesiastical fellowship for that matter? They all seem to begin acting like a denomination at some point or another. It seems that if I’m not part of any organization, I can make decisions based on my conscience without any outside pressure to conform to some standard derived by a council or leadership board. It’s a whole lot simpler than this mess.”
Jason then followed up with this:
“I just see no reason for joining organizations and fellowships. It promotes the worst kind of leadership – elected leadership. I believe true leadership is a matter of influence, not some position in an organization.”
Well, well, well … since we here at The World From Our Window appreciate Jason Janz and his work of love, ShaperIron, we thought he would be oh-so-appreciative if we posted Dr. Robert Ketcham’s answers to his “I see no reason” reasoning. So Jason, if you are reading … and to all other loyal readers … here are the reasons why joining an association of churches is beneficial to (and necessary for??) your spiritual and ecclesiastical health [this piece can be read in its entirety HERE].
If it is true that each individual Christian needs to have fellowship with other Christians who believe as he believes, and this fellowship is a vital and necessary contribution to his spiritual welfare and development, then it logically follows that a local church made up of these individuals needs to have fellowship with other churches made up of the same kind of individuals believing the same thing.
Scattered across the northern territory of the United States, in particular, there are literally hundreds of Baptist churches that at one time had fellowship with the American Baptist Churches, state conventions, and local Baptist associations, but because of conviction, and for Christ and conscience sake, that fellowship has ceased in practice because it had already ceased in essence. Many of these churches have united themselves together in rather loosely formed fellowships covering limited geographical areas. Others have united themselves in such a Fellowship as the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. Some of these churches are in fellowship with both the local and the general Fellowship. There is, however, a host of churches that are remaining absolutely independent of any fellowship whatsoever. We honestly believe this to be a dangerous position.
First of all, we believe it to be dangerous for the same reason we believe it is dangerous for an individual soul to stay away from the fellowship and worship services of his church. As pastor we insist our people cannot be their best unless they are more or less regular in attendance at the services of divine worship, meeting with others and assembling themselves together with others in the fellowship and service of a church. If this is true of single individuals, it is true of collective groups of individuals, called churches. Neither men nor churches can be their best living unto themselves.
In the second place, we believe it to be dangerous because the independent position of the non-fellowshipping church opens itself to all sorts of attacks. We are thinking just now of a church not so far removed from us where, during a pastorate extending over several years, a much beloved leader brought his people to the point where they saw the fallacy of continuing in fellowship with the Convention and its affiliates. Therefore, they ceased all active cooperation. They enjoyed a time of blessed “independence.” Again and again, invitations were extended to this church to unite in the fellowship of other churches already out of the Convention, but they maintained their “independent” stand. Finally, their beloved and trusted pastor was called to another field. In less than twelve months from the time he left, another pastor had been called to the field, and he had led this church back into full and hearty fellowship and cooperation with the Convention out of which they had come a few years previous.
In spite of all that could be said about a church that could be switched suddenly not having a mind of its own, etc., we still believe that had this church been lined up in definite fellowship in worship and service with other Baptist churches already out of the Convention; had they been attending the glorious conferences conducted by the Fellowship group; and had the members of that church come to know something of the glorious visitations of God in the group that had ceased to fellowship with the Convention, they never in the world could have been inveigled into going back into the wilderness of conventionism. But they had never gotten a taste of the glories of the Canaan land of such a Fellowship and, therefore, the onions, leeks, and garlic still appealed to them.
Our suggestion is that every church that is free from the Convention ought to make haste to line itself up in fellowship with the other churches that, like itself, have broken fellowship with the Convention. This fellowship ought not to be simply a matter of paper. It should be a practical thing. They should make every effort to get at least three, four, or five of their membership to attend some meeting of the Fellowship at least annually, if not more often.
In the third place, we believe this ultra “independent” position is dangerous because of its reactions upon pastor and church. Some time ago, a very beloved friend of mine, who over a period of more than fifteen years had maintained this “independent” attitude to which we are referring, wrote expressing his regret that he had maintained such a position, for two reasons. In his letter, he stated frankly his conviction that after his long ministry of more than fifteen years in his present pastorate, he felt that it would be in the will of God for him to move elsewhere.
As he began to think of all the things involved in such a move, he suddenly discovered he had cut himself and his church off from the very resources upon which he hoped to draw in such a change of pastorates. He had not been in attendance at the annual or other meetings of the independent fellowships and, therefore, did not know where to turn to seek entrance to another pulpit that was free from Convention cooperation. On the other hand, should he resign and leave, his own church, because it had not fellowshipped with other churches and other brethren, would not know where to turn or look for a successor, with the result that they might turn in the wrong direction.
Surely with the total absence of controlling machinery and any possibility of there ever being any such machinery created in the present or future setup of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, we see no reason in the world why all churches independent of Convention cooperation should not find in this Fellowship a place of happy communion.
(All emphasis such as italics, bold, or color is mine unless otherwise noted)
Let’s wait and see how all those independents who are wary of any organized ecclesiastical group outside of the local church (until it comes to seminary, mission agencies, or camps … all of which have controlling trustee boards) respond to Dr. Ketcham’s well-reasoned reasons for joining and participating in an association and/or fellowship of like-minded churches.
[whispering…while I duck!] Honestly, I have yet to meet an independent Baptist who was really independent!
Note of clarification: I like Jason Janz … I am a fan of Jason Janz … I hope to one day meet Jason Janz … I just happen to disagree with him on this issue!