What must we agree upon to associate with other local churches?

Depending on your specific denomination and inclusive convictions, there are different reasons and ways that local churches agree to associate with one another.  Social justice, mercy ministry and the presence of organizations like ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together) force us to ask this question.  In my SBC circles, we are autonomous churches who associate at a national level (SBC Convention), state level (state conventions), and local associations.  Our church in Louisville, KY is apart of the Long Run Baptist Association (LRBA), one of the oldest, functioning, local SBC associations (over 200 years old).  With an historical association as this, there is a rich heritage that should be celebrated, yet there also exists some great challenges.  One of those challenges in this post-conservative resurgence era in the SBC is what must we at least agree upon if we are to associate and work together. 

I would argue regardless the kind of church and denominational associations of which we are apart, we must find our basic common ground in one place…the exclusivity of the gospel.  For many years as this historical association continued to move forward through the aftermath of the conservative resurgence, the perception of this line of gospel exclusivity continued to become more and more fuzzy.  Last night at our annual meeting, a major resolution was passed unanimously that we are convinced will set in motion the trajectory for the future as we ask this question and determine who we can and cannot associate with as churches.  

Here is the resolution for Gospel clarity passed at the annual meeting:

Because of our awareness of the increasing spiritual darkness and confusion about the one true Gospel, we the churches of the Long Run Baptist Association resolve to affirm our commitment to this one true Gospel:  That Jesus, God’s only Son, our sinless Savior, died on the cross, bearing the full wrath of God for our sins in our place.  He was raised from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of the Father waiting to judge the living and the dead at His return.  Whosoever repents and places faith in Jesus alone receives the forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ perfect life is credited to that one, and that person is fully and eternally reconciled to the Father.  We further resolve to communicate with clarity that Jesus is the only name under heaven that has been given among people, by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12, John 14:6, John 3:16).

In addition to this resolution, the gavel of moderator for this next year was also passed to me.  Therefore, I would ask that you would pray for me and our association as we try to determine the next step to gospel faithfulness and local church health in this coming year.

Posted in Evangelism
6 comments on “What must we agree upon to associate with other local churches?
  1. Allen Burns says:

    I enjoy your posts. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.
    Quick question. There are many local churches that might agree with us on the Gospel. However, what if those churches promote practices or teachings that we might not necessarily agree with, and might even consider as dangerous (such as a “prophetic intervention” event, or a book study by a bad author, etc.)? Should we be concerned that our flock may be exposed to bad shepherding and have the impression that we endorse the teaching? What do we do in those cases?

    • briancroft says:

      Good question. Those secondary issues have to be considered by each church. Once the gospel is agreed upon, you still need to be discerning about what you rally together on. Mission and evangelism is a common ground for Baptists once the gospel is agreed upon. However, you may not want to do a joint book study with another church if the book chosen would be harmful to you people. I think you take a glass is half full approach to this and find the things you do agree on that you can rally together for.

  2. Brian says:

    Great news! I’m glad to hear of the solidarity of the Long Run Association upon the foundation of the clear gospel. As new members at Third Avenue Baptist Church, I recently was doing some reading about both the Long Run Association and the greater state convention. I saw the dates for the annual meeting and even considered going.

    May you lead well over the next year, moderator.

  3. Ken says:

    Brian,
    I am grateful for your work on this blog. It is a real blessing to our ministry.

    Connecting with other churches is a messy issue, and difficult to navigate; however, we are compelled to attempt this navigation for the unity of the Body of Christ.

    In some instances, staying within one’s denominational lines may not provide enough demarcation for all levels of collaborative ministry (even within the SBC). Conversely, often one’s theological “tribe” may extend well beyond the denominational boundaries (again, depending on the level of association required for a specific activity/event/program).

    It seems as though the level of theological agreement will need to coincide with the level of association required for collaborative ministry. For example, if churches are collaborating together in order to plant a new church, there should be a great deal of theological agreement between the churches. If, on the other hand, churches are collaborating to feed the poor, less theological agreement will be necessary. Somewhere in the middle are activities such as prayer events/meetings, evangelistic outreaches, and such. For example, how does one have a pastor’s prayer meeting with a pastor who prays in tongues? Is that even possible?

  4. Allen Burns says:

    I like Ken’s closing question as that is essentially the issue. It is difficult to on one hand say we are ecumenical and love the greater body of Christ when on the other hand, when it comes to worship content, prayer content, book studies, and conferences, there is enough difference to warrant separation. It is difficult because we almost always come across as snobbish/self-righteous. What are some actual words or dialogue that we can use around these other churches to help them understand we want to be part of them but, not in every way?

  5. Stewart says:

    Historically, Baptists have worked together through associations. The trend nowadays is to be more open to work with everyone (at least in my area). This is disheartening in the sense that conservative Baptists (especially SBC) are more quick to cooperate with non-Baptists than they are their fellow Baptists due to what I believe is a fear of losing members to other Baptist churches. I for one would like to see more cooperation between Baptists of same associations, especially in evangelism and missions. But I dont see much of that at all. It started out with the idea that we could do more together than separate, but it seems that we either isolate ourselves or join ecumenical groups

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