This is the second in a three-part series by Terry Dorsett, executive director of the Baptist Convention of New England, on denominations. For the first article in this series, click here.
NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. (BP) — As a Baptist state convention leader, I am often asked what our organization does to serve churches. I am pleased to be able to give those who ask a list of nearly 25 benefits churches that cooperate with our missionary organization gain through their connection to us.
But I confess, sometimes the question itself concerns me. Don’t get me wrong, I do think that the convention should serve the churches, not the other way around. But I wonder if the question says something about the motives of those who ask.
I did not grow up in a denomination. (Read about my journey toward joining a denomination here). When I decided to join one, my choice was not driven by what the denomination could do for me — but how joining it would help me be more effective in reaching the world for Christ.
Isn’t that really the question churches should be asking? Rarely does a church ask how the denomination can help their church reach their community, their region, the nation or the world with the Gospel. This concerns me, and it should concern local church leaders as well.
When churches only focus on what they get out of the denomination instead of how they can use their connection to the denomination to reach others, it indicates they have turned inward on themselves, caring more about meeting their own needs than reaching the lost. When churches focus on what they get out of the relationship, it is very similar to individual Christians who demand the church meet their needs or they will leave and go to a church down the street.
Regretfully, some denominations do not help their churches share the Gospel more effectively. And it is legitimate for churches in those denominations to consider changing their denominational affiliation. Sometimes denominations have various agencies, regional offices, associations and connections that are less effective than other branches of the same denomination. In those situations, churches might consider if they can shift to a different organization or branch of the same denomination so their energy is focused on the most effective aspect of denominational life. But when a church is only connected to a denomination for what they can get out of the relationship, something is wrong.
Let us all examine our hearts and motives and ask how we can use the connections in the denomination we find ourselves in to advance the Kingdom of God, not just to increase the list of benefits available to us.
To learn more about becoming connected with the Southern Baptist family, visit www.SBC.net/becomingsouthernbaptist.