From Where I Stand
Maynard H. Belt
MARBC State Representative
Exposing The Myths Of The Church #7
It’s Not Important To Be Part Of a Fellowship Of Churches – We Can Go It Alone!
John Donne, a minister and poet, once wrote: “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” King Solomon said in Proverbs 18:1: “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire.” One thing for sure, as pastors and local independent Baptist Churches, we do not stand alone in the work of the ministry and we are just a piece of the larger work, just a part of the main!
When the founding fathers of our particular Fellowship of churches established an association of churches, the intent was that we would be bound together by doctrinal purity, autonomous decision-making and encouragement to each other in our respective ministries. Over the years in our MARBC Fellowship of churches, we have sought to emphasize the importance of such fellowship, but from time to time there are some who sense that it is not important to be a part of a Fellowship of churches, that they can go it alone.
The Apostle Paul, founding pastor of several New Testament churches, fully understood the importance of fellowship and a kindred spirit among the churches as evidenced in some of his New Testament writings. Though most of his epistles were written to individual churches, his epistle to the Galatians specifically addressed the churches in more than one city (Galatians 1:2; I Cor. 16:1). Galatia was the region of central Asia Minor inhabited by the Galatians. Eventually this area encompassed the entire Roman Province. According to Acts 13:14-14:23, during his first missionary journey, Paul founded churches in the Southern Galatian cities of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. Because neither Acts nor Galatians mention any churches in Northern Galatia, Paul was probably writing to those in the Southern region.
His purpose in writing to the Galatians was to address the false teachers that were saying that the Gentiles must first become Jewish proselytes and subject to Mosaic law before they could become Christians. He wrote to defend the accepted doctrine that justification was by faith alone. I do not know if the churches had a problem cooperating due to the dissension caused by this false teaching but in Galatians 4:10 Paul does say that some were observing the rituals and ceremonies of the Jewish religious calendar which was not required for the Church of Jesus Christ. If I might be a little pretentious, if they were truly independent, fundamental Baptist churches, you can almost surmise that there was some criticism of each other! No doubt, some said, “Amen, Paul, preach it!” while others said, “Quit interfering, Paul. It’s none of your business!” Paul was kind of like a State Representative!
What really are some advantages of being part of an association of churches? Why is it important to work together in furthering the gospel of Jesus Christ? We should not have a competitive spirit against one another but a cooperative spirit with each other which will enable us to each be more effective in letting our light shine in a world of spiritual darkness. Following are some viable ABC’s in being an active part of an association of churches:
Association church planting. Select an area and work together to start a church.
Bear one another’s burdens. When a brother or church hurts, hurt with them just as God hurts with us when we hurt (Isa. 63:9).
Communicate openly if differences arise. Don’t let barriers develop (Prov. 18:19).
Declare biblical convictions together – pro-life, family lifestyles, Etc.
Exchange pulpits occasionally, and when you do, share ministry prayer requests with one another.
Foster healthy relationships. Do things together to let your communities know that you get along.
Group activities and projects can be shared: senior citizens, singles, youth activities, mission trips, Etc.
Handicap ministries – coordinate an outreach to the handicapped in your communities.
Invite sister churches to special events, such as concerts, evangelistic meetings, anniversary celebrations.
Join together for special services: Good Friday, New Year’s Eve, Prayer Day, occasional hymnsings, Etc.
Keynote speakers – share them (and their expenses) with sister churches.
Library and literature resources such as books, tapes, videos and choir music can be shared.
Membership transfers – if from a nearby church investigate the reasons and inform the pastor.
Neighborhood outreaches – VBS, backyard clubs, canvassing, Etc.
Pray during your Sunday services by name for sister churches and pastors. This promotes oneness.
Respect differences: in philosophy of ministries, methodology, tastes of music, Etc.
Singles ministry is such a great need in our churches today. Cooperate with others in establishing an effective outreach.
Tourneys for fun: golf, softball, volleyball, paint ball, basketball, bowling, Etc.
Unresolved conflict – seek the Lord’s will in resolving as soon as possible.
Volunteers encouraged to assist with work projects, especially building needs that other churches might have.
“Yoke” around with each other – it might be a fun and profitable experience!!!
In Laurie Beth Jones’ book, Jesus CEO, she tells the story of one young man, set to run in a 100 meter race in the Special Olympics, who had trained for months and months. When the gun finally sounded and he leaped out in front of the rest, it seems the excitement of the race overcame him. Each foot went in different directions, and the well-meaning athlete came tumbling down right in frot of the starting block. The other racers, each as eager as he was to compete in this great event, nevertheless stopped running their own race and turned back to help the fallen runner. The crowd came to their feet and watched as his competitors lovingly lifted him up and then walked arm in arm across the finish line together. These very special people had a heartfelt conviction and commitment that“nobody wins until we all do!” My friend, it IS important to be part of an association of churches and encourage each other in ministry, and that is not a myth!