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SBC Life Articles

Conservative and Cooperative: Maintaining That Vital and Essential Link


In my report to the Southern Baptist Convention last year, I defined Southern Baptists as "cooperating conservatives," as contrasted to "separatists." Our heritage, beliefs, and polity are founded upon the two principles, biblical conservatism and cooperation. In the last twenty-five years, Southern Baptists have made it clear that they are biblical conservatives.

While we must be vigilant in guarding against erosion in our doctrinal convictions, we must also closely guard the spirit of cooperation that has characterized our Convention and contributed to the far-reaching witness we have achieved historically around the world. If Southern Baptists leaders, pastors, and laymen ride off in all directions at once without an intentional and strong effort in cooperating with each other, even if and when it doesn't come easily, we could easily fall into God's disfavor where He no longer uses us so mightily to preach His Word to the ends of the earth.

In God's providence and in accord with the beliefs of the vast majority of Southern Baptists, conservatives have the opportunity to lead the Convention based upon our zeal for the Bible. And the only workable way it can happen in our polity is to work, bonded together by our love for Christ and our obedience to the Great Commission. As a network of churches, rather than a denominational hierarchy, we shall find ourselves wandering in the wilderness on the wrong side of the river if our hearts are not devoted to glorifying the Lord and advancing His Kingdom on earth.

We have broadcast to the world what we believe about the authority of God's Word. Now we must seize the hour to tell the peoples of the world what the Bible says, that Jesus died on the cross to forgive them of their sins, and by trusting Him as personal Savior, they shall live forever. Souls are lost, and people need Jesus. If we are not careful, we will spend all of our time talking to ourselves and forget to be soul winners. Having the right doctrine does not guarantee a close daily walk with the Lord or a right relationship with other brothers and sisters in Christ. This fact cannot be overlooked if we are to remain a powerful force for our Lord and creatively build an even stronger witness for Jesus' sake.

While raising caution with regard to cooperation, I am optimistic that as a whole, Southern Baptists want to be certain that their love for Christ triumphs over personal ambitions and political agendas. As we all come closer to this ideal — God's ideal for us — we will see the blessings of God increase a hundred-fold.

I fear that we may spend too much time thinking about how wonderful it is to be the largest non-Catholic convention in the world with the largest national and international ministries, when we should be on our faces before God, humbling ourselves, and praying that we shall be found faithful in our stewardship of this time in history. Our strengths will become our weaknesses should we ever find ourselves boasting of how wonderful we are rather than how great God is, for the Bible says, So the one who boasts must boast in the Lord (2 Corinthians10:17, HCSB).

May God help us to go as far as our faith can take us and then expect miraculous intervention from God's Spirit to assure that we maximize our effectiveness for the sake of the Kingdom.


A Proper Balance

Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world. ~ Francis Schaeffer

Doctrinal rightness and rightness of ecclesiastical position are important, but only as a starting point to go on into a living relationship — and not as ends in themselves. ~ Francis Schaeffer

    About the Author

  • Morris H. Chapman