Grace Baptist Church and Possible Cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention
This document will seek to provide helpful information and background for our church members in deciding whether we should cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). It will also seek to answer frequently asked questions about the SBC and what that cooperation would look like.
Background of GBC
Grace Baptist Church (GBC) is an autonomous local church. This is at the heart of what it means to be a Baptist church. This simply means that no individual or entity outside of a local Baptist church has any control or authority over that church. The responsibility for how our church carries out its mission and ministry lies with the members of our congregation. We believe this understanding of local church autonomy best fits the New Testament teaching and expression.
GBC takes seriously its affiliations and partnerships because they reflect our doctrinal beliefs and practices. GBC was established as a Baptist church that “shall fellowship with churches composing the American Baptist Association” (Quoted from GBC By-Laws). We have been in friendly cooperation with the ABA for over 52 years.
Our cooperation consists of:
- Financial support of church planting and missionary efforts. Currently we give $3000 per month to the ABA.
- Fellowship with other ABA churches. This takes the form of retreats, camps, pastor fellowships, etc.
- Participation in the ABA Messenger Meeting. This is an annual meeting where three messengers from each ABA church are selected to represent their church in making decisions regarding missionary endeavors and church planting. This is also a time of mutual encouragement for pastors and church representatives.
GBC pastors are committed to continuing our fellowship with the ABA. We are thankful for the faithful and fruitful work we see within many churches in the ABA. We are glad to cooperate with these churches for the sake of gospel advance among the nations.
The GBC leaders (pastors and deacons) interpret the statement from our by-laws as meaning our fellowship with the ABA is essential but not exclusive. The reason we take this position is because of our practice to cooperate with organizations other than the ABA. For instance, GBC partners with the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE) in offering financial and prayer support to several ABWE missionaries. We fellowship with ABWE by inviting their staff and missionaries to speak at mission conferences, pastor meetings, and Sunday worship services. ABWE is just one example of a number of organizations that we cooperate with (other than the ABA) to fulfill the Great Commission.
It is the pastors’ position that, as a church family, we may choose with whom to cooperate based on the strategic advantages for GBC in advancing God’s kingdom.
SBC Background (see SBC brochure)
The SBC is a partnership of local churches that has existed for 170 years.
The purpose of the SBC is:
“To proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people everywhere.” The stated belief is this: “Southern Baptists hold high the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the unifying center around which everything else is built and from which all ministry flows.”
Like GBC, the SBC strongly believes in the autonomy of the local church:
The Convention is a network of autonomous churches voluntarily banded together to engage in missions enterprises and ministry activities designed to fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord. Cooperation requires trust; it requires commitment; it requires confidence that God’s purposes are bigger than what we can accomplish individually. We believe it is a wonderful thing to be part of what God is doing through Southern Baptists and commend the Convention and its work to you.
Is the SBC a Denomination?
Southern Baptists are a “Denomination” only in the word’s most general meaning—a general name for a category of similar things. Churches that practice believer’s baptism by immersion have been “denominated” by others and by themselves as Baptists for many centuries. When the Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845, it used the term in this general way (see the preamble to the SBC Constitution). By doctrine and polity, the SBC cannot and does not unite local congregations into a single legal denominational body. Each cooperating Baptist body—local church, association, state convention, and auxiliary—retains its sovereignty and is fully autonomous.
These autonomous Baptist bodies work together in friendly cooperation to achieve common Kingdom ministries and purposes. Each autonomous Baptist church, association, and state convention (see SBC Constitution, Article IV) participates in Convention causes voluntarily.
How can a church cooperate with the SBC?
From the SBC website:
In order for a church to be recognized as a cooperating church with the SBC, it must “be in friendly cooperation with the Convention and sympathetic with its purposes and work,” and be “a bona fide contributor to the Convention’s work during the fiscal year preceding” (Article III, Southern Baptist Convention Constitution).
The standard method of contribution is through the Cooperative Program, our unified method of supporting SBC mission causes, and the most common avenue for contribution is through the church’s respective Baptist state convention office.
The Southern Baptist Convention meets once each year in June. A church would be qualified to send messengers to the annual meeting during any June if it has taken formal action to cooperate (such as a vote of the church body) and has contributed to the work of the Convention during the preceding fiscal year (which ends each September 30).
To summarize, GBC may cooperate with the SBC by 1) affirming our agreement with the doctrinal statement (Baptist Faith and Message 2000) and 2) offering regular financial support (minimum of $500/year) to the work of the SBC.
What are some benefits of cooperating with the SBC?
Here are just a few of the many benefits to GBC:
- Allows for us to send students to get theological education at many top notch seminaries for half the cost.
- Enhances our investment in taking the gospel to the world through the financial support of the SBC Cooperative Program.
- Offers opportunities for fellowship with other like-minded churches in our area.
- Offers opportunities for GBC pastors to connect with other pastors for fellowship, training, and mentoring.
- Opens doors for more short-term trips and long-term missions.
- Aligns us with a large group of Baptist churches that hold to sound doctrine and seek to make the gospel known among the nations.
If needed, how do we stop cooperating with the SBC?
If for any reason our church decides that it is no longer beneficial or prudent to cooperate with the SBC, we have the ability to immediately end that cooperation. Because our church is autonomous, the SBC cannot force cooperation or require us to participate against our will. Ending cooperation would mean no longer sending our financial support and informing them of our decision to cease cooperation with the SBC.
If we cooperate with the SBC would that make us an “SBC church”?
That phrase is very misleading. Does it mean the SBC controls that church or is in charge of that church? The answer is clearly no. What most people think when they hear that phrase is that a church is cooperating with the SBC. We will never be an “SBC church” just as we are not an “ABA church.” We will always be Grace Baptist Church. Our affiliations and partnerships are simply meant to enhance our efforts in advancing the gospel.