I’m regularly asked by younger ministers, seminary students and prospective members of our church, “Why would a church want to be a part of a denomination?”
(Yes, I know that the SBC is not actually a denomination!) There was a time when I asked the very same question. I think it is a good and reasonable question that a person can consider. As I reflect on the Southern Baptist Convention’s recent meeting in Phoenix I am reminded again of the value that comes by being in a family of churches and encouraged on a number of fronts by what is happening in this family.
I was reminded again that we can do more together. There are certainly things that our local congregation can and should do on our own or with other churches in our community but there are also limitations to what we can do by ourselves. As I participated in the meeting and interacted with people from around the country representing so many different congregations, state conventions and agencies, I was encouraged by the work of the gospel that we can do together that far exceeds what we could do if we all only worked individually.
I was encouraged again by the ministry that is being done through the various entities of our convention. When you hear the reports and observe the work of IMB, NAMB, ERLC, Lifeway, Guidestone and our seminaries there is so much good kingdom work that is being accomplished. We see a glimpse of this throughout the year as our local congregation works with some of these entities but when we gather each year and hear the broader picture of what is being done I am even more thankful for their faithful work. As one who planted a church in cooperation with NAMB several years ago I was so thankful for the report of the excellent work that is being done and I was deeply moved as we were able to participate in the IMB Commissioning Service.
I was blessed by the increasing diversity among our family of churches. We certainly still have significant work to do this in this area but I was encouraged by interactions with brothers and sisters from many different ethnic backgrounds and nations from around the world who are a part of local churches and I was personally blessed by conversations with pastors and church planters from all over North America- from Alaska, to Montreal, to Florida, Montana, California and so many other states. I’m thankful for a family of churches that wants to take the gospel to every city and town and to every people group on this continent.
Of course, we are not, by any means, a family without our frustrations and flaws. There will always be challenges as we try to work together as a family. We saw some of that in the situation with the resolution to denounce the Anti-Gospel Alt-Right. I won’t go into the details of that since it has been covered by so many but I am truly thankful that in the end this family spoke overwhelming to our opposition to racism and our awareness that we still have work to do in this area.
As I left the heat of Phoenix for the cooler temperatures of New England, I was again thankful for the family that is able to lock arms together for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.