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

Cooperation Among Baptists

Norman H. Wells, Central Baptist Church, Cincinnati, Ohio

From The Baptist Challenge, January 2014

“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3)

There is a great need for cooperation among Baptists. The dictionary tells us that cooperation is to “operate together for a common object.” Before there can be cooperation there has to be some basis of agreement. Before Baptists can successfully walk and work together they must be agreed.

Sometimes this striving for cooperation leads to some peculiar agreements. The price for cooperation can come high. Baptist churches sometimes have to agree to still their voices on distinctive Baptist doctrines for the sake of cooperation. This is a fearful price. Many times Baptists are called upon to support causes and institutions to which they normally would object—all for the sake of cooperation. It develops to where modernism and liberalism are tolerated for the sake of cooperation.

This kind of cooperation has become so objectionable to real Baptists that a great host of them have gone to the other extreme. All over this country are thousands of Baptist preachers and churches who have withdrawn from all such organizational ties and unscriptural cooperation and stand as real, true, independent New Testament Baptist churches. We praise God for this group.

A great number of these Baptist preachers and churches who paid such a tremendous price to break away now find themselves again involved in the same kind of unscriptural organizations, only under a different name. Many of these are having to repeat the operation of separation in order to stand as real independent Baptist churches. All this has had a tendency to create another undesirable situation. Real, independent Baptist churches and preachers find themselves cut-off and isolated from other Baptists.

I have received letters from many Baptists who find themselves in this position. Baptist churches and preachers who refuse to cooperate with the existing Conventions, Associations, and Fellowships of Baptists are shunned and ridiculed. Organized Baptists do their best, it seems, to promote the idea that the “independents” are a mere handful of disgruntled, thwarted, disappointed, non-cooperative, non-missionary, self-seeking, interdenominational, glory hunters. In reality, it could probably be easily established that a tremendous percentage of real Baptists fall in this despised group of “independents.”

There is a great need for cooperation among these truly, independent Baptist churches. The chief criticism hurled our way is that we can’t get the job done without using an organization other than the church. They did in New Testament times and it can be done now. There needs to be cooperation among Baptists who are agreed. There needs to be agreement on three things — our mission, our message, and our method.

Cooperation in our Mission

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).

The mission of Baptist churches is to “teach all nations” or “disciple” all nations, that is, get folks saved. The churches are to carry this gospel to “all nations.”

Secondly, they are to baptize those who get saved. What a tremendous importance this places on baptism.

Thirdly, the churches are to teach the baptized converts “to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you.”

Thus we see that the mission of Baptist churches is to get sinners saved, baptize them and teach them the commandments of Jesus. All this is to be done to the glory of God.

It is not too difficult to see that before there can be cooperation there must be agreement as to mission. All Baptists should be cooperating in this effort.

Cooperation in Our Message

Surely it will be readily agreed upon that all churches calling themselves Baptist should be proclaiming the same message. However, as anyone can see, this is not the case. Because of a laxity in doctrinal teachings and because of the spirit of “unity at any cost” that prevails the name “Baptist” has been diluted so as to spread over a multitude of conflicting messages.

It is an amazing thing to see the real Baptist message because such discomfort to many who are using the name. It is interesting to note how many good old Baptist doctrines are taboo among modern organized Baptists. They can’t be preached because they would offend some of the churches in the group who have drifted from the Baptist position. Great truths are stifled in order to keep all the brethren cooperating.

As these organized groups of Baptists meet there is a noticeable lack of preaching on the great historical doctrines for which Baptists preached, fought and died. The message has softened.

The world needs to hear the Baptist message — all of it. The command to each Baptist church is, “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded thee.” Real Baptists should never get themselves in an organization where this message is throttled.

Baptists all over the world who are still clinging to the true historic Baptist message should be sending it into all the world. They should stand shoulder to shoulder.

Cooperation in Method

Jesus Christ only left one organization upon this earth to carry out the great commission. That organization is a local church. One can search the New Testament from beginning to end and the local church is the only organization found to carry out this task.

No Conventions, Associations, Organized Fellowships, Mission Boards, etc., are to be found. It should be the simplest thing in the world to understand that the local church is God’s method of getting the job done. The only organization Christ Himself gave was the local church — all others are manmade. True Baptists have always recognized this. The local church is God’s way and glorifies God — creating huge organizations of Baptist churches is man’s way and glorifies man.

True Baptists need to cooperate in method. It is possible for Baptist churches to cooperate without benefit of organizational ties binding them together. It is not only possible but necessary.

It is time that real Baptists identify themselves and stand together in scriptural cooperation to get the message out to a lost world for the glory of our God.

God gave the churches their mission and nothing else should be substituted. God gave the churches their message and it should not be changed. The mission and message, given by God, should be accepted as the will of God. Who would be so presumptuous as to try to improve the mission or the message God gave the churches?

What is true of the mission and the message is also true of the method God has given us. How many times Baptists have been guilty of stating, “Yes, that’s the way it was done in the New Testament but it won’t work now.” It would seem that it is believed that God’s method can be improved.

God’s method cannot be improved. Baptists who accept God’s mission and God’s message should also accept God’s method. It will work. It is possible for independent Baptist churches to carry out the great Commission without manmade, extra-scriptural organization.