The Baptist Pillar ©      Brandon Bible Baptist Church     1992-Present

"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15

Independent Churches

Shoulder Their Responsibility

Charles C. Hays

One of our church members asked me about a Baptist church which has the name "independent" advertised with its church name. She was wondering how that independent Baptist church was different from us as an independent Baptist church.

Southern Baptists and some Conservative Baptists think of themselves as "independent" and the Baptist Fellowship groups headquarters in Springfield, Missouri, and Arlington, Texas, use the term very explicitly to describe themselves. The term is used so generally that it becomes confusing to many as to who are and who aren't "independent" Baptists.

I want to examine the term "independent" from the standpoint of the meaning of the word. The first three definitions of the word are those upon which most Baptist groups base their independency.

They are:

1. Free from the influence or control of others;

2. Free from rule of another, self-governing;

3. Free from persuasion or bias, self-determined, self-reliant. But the last two definitions are what makes the idea of independency complete.

4. Not connected with, such as a political party, an independent voter;

5. Not connected with others, separate, such as an independent grocer.

We understand without question that an "independent" voter does not belong or is connected with nor is registered as a Republican, Democrat, American party or whatever. We understand an "independent" grocer to be one who doesn't belong to a grocery chain and is free to buy his products from any wholesaler he desires and is answerable to nobody but himself in promotions, profits, etc.

It is clear from these facts that the terms "not connected with, separate from" must be included in a church's position if they can truly qualify as being totally "independent". The SBC, Baptist Bible Fellowship, the World Baptist Fellowship, Conservative Baptist groups and others are connected with each other by a headquarters with executive officials, with a mission board or committee that gives direction or approval, that has influence upon the decisions that local churches make in various areas as they are led by their pastors.

My conviction is that a Baptist church should practice all of these definitions before complete independency can be claimed.

I'm thankful that independent Baptist churches can claim total independency. We are free from influence and control except for that of the Holy Spirit. We are self-governing, self-reliant as the Holy Spirit directs.

We are not connected with, and are separate from any organization outside of the local church. New Testament Baptist churches were this way, early century churches were this way until the 1700's when various organizations began to be formed.

A young man asked me recently why I was an unaffiliated independent Baptist and I gave him the reason above about the definition of independent as well as that unaffiliated independent Baptist churches were assuming the complete responsibility of the church as Jesus gave it.

The responsibility of the church is to carry out the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20. That responsibility also carries with it the obligation for each local church to oversee the extension of themselves in mission fields around the world. Two clear examples in the New Testament are easily recognized.

First, in Acts 8 when the church at Jerusalem was scattered about Judea and Samaria and Philip ministered in Samaria where many were saved and baptized, the apostles, who were all that were left in the Jerusalem church, sent Peter and John to see the work that was done there. It was their responsibility to see that the preaching was true, the baptism was administered correctly and the professions were genuine.

Second, in Acts 11:19 others scattered from the Jerusalem church by the persecution mentioned in Acts 8 came northward to Antioch in Syria preaching and many believed. In 11:22 the Jerusalem church sent Barnabas to see about the work they had heard about in Antioch. It was the Jerusalem church's responsibility to maintain close contact with the work done by those who were from the Jerusalem church.

It matters not in what way the local church is responsible for what is done. Mission work, Christian schools, Bible colleges, children's homes which are such extensions are all the responsibility of the local church that sponsors them. It can be a tremendous load to a pastor and a church to oversee such works but that is what Christ intended. Many are not willing to take this responsibility and give it to boards and organizations outside the local church to direct and oversee.

Some pastors make it clear they do not want to send a missionary directly from the church and have to be tied down. One pastor made it very clear he wouldn't want to send a missionary directly from his church and have to be tied down with that responsibility, he was glad the mission boards and committees were responsible for that. This appears to be the unspoken sentiments of many Baptists in America.

If God has given this responsibility to Christ's church and we do God's work, God's way by the leadership of the Holy Spirit, then we can be assured of God's blessings. I trust independent Baptist churches will be always willing to shoulder their responsibility.