This question has been dogging me for a few months now. It all began at last year’s MBC annual meeting… *the room begins to swim and then fades away amidst lovely strums of the harp. We are transported to Raytown, MO, October, 2009*… At that meeting I had the privilege, honestly…privilege, of spending a good deal of time with Micah Fries. Anyone who knows Micah and me knows that there are some differences between us. One, he is tall…ok, freakishly tall :-) (sorry, couldn’t resist), and I am…well…short. Beyond that highly insignificant bit of trivia, we have some differing perspectives on the best way for Southern Baptists to structure our ministries in varying levels of cooperation for the sake of fulfilling our Great Commission calling as churches and a convention of churches. He has the right to be wrong…and so do I. O:-) I do not hesitate to call him brother. I would not hesitate to ask him to preach at our church (just as long as he doesn’t use words like missional or contextualization ;-) ). I have found him to be a significant and consistent ally regarding some of the challenges faced in our Missouri Baptist Convention. I am praying that we see the right things happen for the glory of God and the furtherance of the Gospel… *Now returning to the present*
A conversation I had the other night, a good and productive conversation, got me to thinking about something. It got me to thinking about disagreements on doctrines in the Bible. And, I just wanted to let all of you know that I believe that it’s okay to disagree on minor issues; on the finer points of theology. In fact, I’d bet you a Krispy Kreme doughnut that none of us, Baptists, agree on every point of doctrine and theology, and that’s okay. We don’t have to agree on every jot and tittle. We can still love each other, and worship together, and fellowship with each other, and serve God together; even if we disagree on the minor, finer points of theology.
Now, on the main things, we must agree. On the main truths of the Bible, we must believe the same. On those things that are clearly spelled out in the Bible, there must be conformity. We must all surrender and yield our hearts and minds to the foundational truths of the Christian faith. We must all believe the fundamentals of the faith. Things like the virgin birth; the atoning death of Jesus; salvation by grace thru faith; the Trinity of God; etc. These are the things that would mean whether we’re even truly a Christian, or not. If someone denied the foundational truths of Christianity, then I wouldn’t even consider them to be a true Believer. But, those people that do hold to the main doctrines of the faith, I call my brother, or sister in Christ; even though they may not be Southern Baptist.
And, as Baptists, we must agree to the doctrinal distinctives which we hold dear; that we believe the Bible clearly teaches; in order to really be considered a Baptist Church. There are things that we must believe; doctrines that make us a Baptist Church. Theology that makes us a Baptist kind of Christian. Things like Believers baptism by immersion; the Lord’s Supper being a symbolic act; once saved, always saved; congregational polity, or governance; etc. If a Church can’t even agree to the BFM2K, is it really a Baptist Church? Is it really a Church that holds to what we consider to be the clear teachings of the Bible? that holds to the doctrines that would make us consider them a good, sound church? I would contend that churches must…in the least…hold to the BFM2K, in order to considered a cooperatiing, Southern Baptist Church.
But, on many, many other things, we can disagree on them all day long; and still worship and serve God together. My friends, there are many, many, finer points of doctrine that we can not see eye to eye on, and it’s okay. We can just have fun trying to convince the other fella that we’re right! Lol. But, these minor things should not cause separation, nor should they cause us to divide. They should not cause strife, nor should they be the source of contention. On the finer points of the major doctrines, we should allow for freedom; even while not agreeing with the other person. Amen? Amen!
NOTE: This post was originally published on my now-mostly-dead personal blog in October of 2007.
In doing some research for a report I am to deliver to the Frisco Baptist Association at next week’s annual meeting, I read through some of the minutes of the Philadelphia Baptist Association from their meetings in the eighteenth century. My last two posts on the subject of church membership and discipline generated some healthy discussion on the topic, so I thought I would add the view of some of our Baptist forefathers to the mix, in the form of responses the association gave to queries from member churches.
Their regard for the importance of membership in the local church was so great that they didn’t believe it proper for someone to pass another Baptist church on their way to the one of which they were a member. This is from the annual meeting of 1735:
Upon a motion moved by some members of the Association:
Whether a person that is a well-wisher to us, and desires to be admitted a member into a church far distant from the place of his abode; whereas a church of the same order is nearer to him than the church that he proposed to join with; whether it be orderly for the distant church to receive such an one? Yea or nay?
Resolved in the negative, there being substantial reasons to the contrary. Such practice is contrary to the intendent, in instituting particular churches.
They also didn’t think it proper for a person to change their church membership unless it was required by a move, as they asserted in the annual meeting of 1728:
Query from the church at Montgomery: Whether a church is bound to grant a letter of dismission to any member to go to another church, while his residence is not removed?
Answered in the negative, we having neither precept nor precedent for such a practice in Scripture.
Does it bother the pastors in my readership when faithful members are missing from services, and later they can’t wait to tell you about the nearby preacher they went and heard instead of coming to their own church? It bothered our eighteenth-century brethren, if the following answer to a query from the church at Middletown is any indication (from 1734):
Whether it be justifiable for our members to neglect our own appointed meetings, and at their pleasure go to hear those differing in judgment from us?
Answered in the negative. Heb. x. 25
I don’t think anyone would argue against the reality that church membership today doesn’t mean what it used to mean. The questions I have are these: Are the attitudes toward membership reflected in these answers worth reclaiming, and if so, how do we go about reclaiming them?
According to the Florida Baptist Witness Dr. Ted Traylor has now announced he will allow his name to be placed before the convention for President. Dr. Traylor has been Pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida for the past 20 years. Olive Baptist gives over 10% of their undesignated funds to CP and they also receive offerings for Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. Dr. Ed Litton announced he would be making the nomination. This race just became even more interesting.
Just a quick note to let the readers of SBC Today know that I am adding some duties to my already full schedule. I am restarting Southern Baptist In NC, my personal blog. The reasons for this are varied. I plan to post once a week there and those posts will be more in keeping with issues that one cannot and should not address on a collaborative blog. You can find my blog in the WordPress format. I am not leaving SBC Today, as I will continue posting articles here on a regular schedule.