The Baptist Pillar © Brandon Bible Baptist Church 1992-Present www.baptistpillar.com
"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
Norman H. Wells
From The Church That Jesus Loved, 1973 (Chapter 10)
I recently received a letter from a young lady who is preparing to go to the mission field. The letter was very critical of the way the Central Baptist Church does mission work. Enclosed in the letter was a pamphlet published by a Mission Agency that expressed the major points of criticism that are generally leveled at independent Baptists who feel that all missionary activities should be through the local church and not through Mission Boards, Societies, Agencies, Associations, etc.
I believe that there are many people who do not understand the position and work of independent Baptists. I feel an answer is again needed for these oft repeated criticisms.
What Is An Independent Baptist Church?
What is an independent Baptist church? What makes it different than other Baptists? The answer to these questions must be understood before any effort is made to clarify our missionary method.
An independent Baptist church is a Baptist church. Doctrinally they maintain the historical Baptist position. I am speaking now of the great bulk of independent Baptists. There are those who use the word independent when the word interdenominational would fit better. The criticism I am dealing with here, however, is not that of our message but of our method. It needs to be said, in order to clear air that the overwhelming majority of independent Baptist churches would be accepted by the Convention, Associations, Fellowships, Agencies, Societies, etc., without one doctrinal change being demanded. In other words they are accepted as Baptist.
What Makes It Different From Other Baptists?
If independent Baptists are accepted as Baptist, doctrinally, what makes them different from other Baptists?
Before we leave the matter of doctrine and turn to methods it must be said that independent Baptists are different from most other Baptists in that they are doctrinally stronger and lay greater emphasis to the historical Baptist beliefs. They are independent, fundamental, pre-millennial, missionary and evangelistic. They oppose the universal, invisible church theory. They reject open communion and alien immersion. They denounce unionism and inter-denominationalism.
Now, as to methods.
Christ gave the "Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20.
"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
"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: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
Baptists accept this as their "marching orders" from the great Head of the church, Jesus Christ. They believe they are to carry the gospel story of redemption to all nations. They believe they are to baptize those that believe and organize them into Baptist churches. They believe they are to "teach them to observe all things I have commanded you."
Many different methods are employed to carry out this commission.
1. There are those who believe that this commission was given to all Christians in general, not to a church. Any individual can solicit support, or form an organization to back his work is the belief of this group. This has led to the great number of so-called non-denominational or interdenominational organizations doing mission work. These groups side-track churches. Be it said to the credit of Baptists that very few have ever gotten involved in this kind of activity.
It should also be known that there are many in this group who classify themselves as "independents" meaning they are not attached to any group or church. This kind of missionary should not be confused with independent Baptists.
2. Next, there are those who believe that it is necessary to organize a number of churches together in order to carry out this commission to go into all the world with the gospel. The most elaborate of these is the World Council of Churches. The majority of churches and denominations in the United States belong to this organization. There are those called Baptist who also are members of this organization; however, the great majority of Baptists stay clear of this monster.
Under this heading would come the great denominational organizations. Each denomination of religion has its own organization to which all their churches belong. The individual churches do their mission work through this denominational machinery. Each denomination has its own Mission Board or Agency that carries on the work of missions for the individual churches. The denominational board or organization approves, sends out, supports and controls the missionary. Every organized Baptist Convention, Association, Fellowship, etc., do their mission work in this fashion.
3. There are several Mission Organizations that are independent of any one group or organization of Baptists. These are Baptist Mission Organizations brought into existence for the purpose of giving the local Baptist church a way of getting their missionaries to the field. These groups are not particularly identified with any Convention, Association, Fellowship, etc., but seemingly try to serve all Baptists.
For the moment, let us confine our thoughts to the Baptists in the above groups. While independent Baptists do not agree with the method that is used in these organizations, they thank God for every missionary that has been sent forth with the Gospel story by these groups. Everyone recognizes the fact of the great work that has been done by some of these boards and organizations on the foreign field. I, for one, will readily agree that in the past these organized Baptists have outstripped independent Baptists in this work. The thought that surges through my being and brings deep conviction to my soul is that, somehow, the whole mission effort of Baptists has fallen far short.
Do we have one nation or continent that has been successfully evangelized by any Baptist organization? Isn't China a memory to spur us into examining our efforts?
These United States are literally laden down with thousands of Conventions, Associations, Boards, Societies, Fellowships, etc., of churches and Christians. Every opportunity for these organizations to get the job done has been given under the most favorable conditions. All this, yet these United States are farther away from God than ever in history.
Independent Baptists are not to escape responsibility for these conditions. They have no great successes to wave as a standard.
4. The final group, of course, that we want to mention are independent Baptists. These are Baptist churches that believe that the great commission was given to the local church. They accept the fact that since the only organization established and sanctioned in the New Testament was the local church that it must be the organization that God intended to carry out His work. They do not believe that any organization except the church is necessary to carry out the plan of God in giving the Gospel to the world.
How Does An Independent Baptist Church Do Missionary Work?
How is it possible for an independent Baptist church to do missionary work without the help of Conventions, Associations, Fellowships, Boards, Agencies, Societies, or what have you?
The answer is simple. They follow the Bible way —God's way. God's way worked in New Testament times — it works now!
The Lord only established one institution for the propagation of His Word. That institution is the local church. There is no other organization mentioned or sanctioned in the entire New Testament. The church is God's way — anything else is of man. Anything else has to have originated with man and the laws governing it have to be manmade — there is no Bible covering anything but a church.
Independent Baptists accept this as meaning that the Lord intended for local churches to carry out the Great Commission. They believe that this is clearly demonstrated iii the New Testament.
The World's Greatest Missionary Effort
The greatest missionary effort ever accomplished was in New Testament times. The Gospel was spread farther, quicker and more successfully than any time since. One definite fact stands out — the only organization used in this, the greatest of all missionary efforts, was the local church. God's method worked. It worked then and it will work now.
How did the early churches accomplish this great feat? What method did they use? We are thankful that the New Testament gives us the method they used. It makes it possible for us to pattern our work after this God-given example.
1. The New Testament teaches that the missionary is to be called and directed by the Holy Spirit. In the record of the sending forth of Saul and Barnabas as missionaries from the church at Antioch as given in the 13th chapter of Acts we find these words in the second verse.
"And they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them."
The fourth verse says: "So they being sent forth by the Holy Spirit…"
2. The Holy Spirit directs the church to send forth the called missionary. In verse 2, quoted above, the language is very clear. The Holy Ghost directed the church to "Separate me Barnabas and Saul."
3. The missionary is to be sent out under the authority of the local church. The passage under consideration (Acts 13:1-4) makes it very plain that the local church sent out the missionary.
These men were sent out by the local church at Antioch and reported back to this church.
"And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles." — Acts 14:27.
4. The churches of the New Testament cooperated together in missions without any organizations but the churches.
"I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.
"And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied..." — II Cor. 11:8-9
Here we see that other churches cooperated with the church at Antioch in financially supporting Paul the missionary.
The church at Philippi is also said to have had a part in the supporting of Paul.
"Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the Gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent one and again to my necessity." — Phil. 4:15-16
The pattern is clear. The Holy Spirit called the missionary and directed the local church to send him forth. The missionary was sent forth on the authority and control of the local church. Other churches cooperated in the effort. All this without any other organizations other than the local churches. This method resulted in the world's greatest missionary effort.
Will It Work Now?
The question arises as to whether this method will work now. Times have changed; must our methods change? No. God gave one message and He gave one method for this age.
It is working now! There is a great surge among Baptists to return to God's way of doing things. All over this country there are hundreds of Baptist churches who are doing their missionary work in the manner set down in the New Testament. It is our prayer that this number will continue to increase.
The number of independent Baptist churches is growing by leaps and bounds. Missionaries are being sent out. Bible Schools are growing and new ones are being started. There are many fine Baptist publications and more are corning. Fine fellowship exists between these churches and pastors. Revival is on every hand and souls are being saved.
All over this country voice after voice is being heard calling God's people back to God's way. God's people are listening. They have grown utterly weary of all the extra-scriptural organizations.
Will it work? I have the report of one of the missionaries recently sent out by independent Baptists. His report, sent to me by the local church that sent him out, reveals that 37 Baptist churches in 10 different states are contributing to his support. This is just one example. Just recently independent Baptists have sent missionaries to Belgian Congo, Africa, Mexico, Japan, and Alaska. This has been accomplished in the past few weeks. They join the fine number already on the foreign field that have been sent out by independent Baptists.
Does It Make A Difference?
Does it make a difference how we send out missionaries? Independent Baptists think it does, for several reasons.
1. We believe that doing things God's way will glorify God and doing things man's way glorifies man. It has ever been true that man is never satisfied with God's way. Just as they have always added to God's way of salvation in order to glorify man so they have always added to God's method in order to glorify man.
2. We believe that there is a serious lack in today's missions. If we are going to have a genuine revival it will be as we return to God's way. We believe we can see another world-shaking effort in our age as there was in New Testament times if we let God have His way. This is what our hearts yearn to see.
3. We believe that greater response can be expected from the individual Christian when the work is through his church than any other way. This will increase the giving and enlarge the work.
4. We believe more young people will respond to the call of God when the work is on the local level of the church. This will increase the number of missionaries.
5. To sum it up, we believe God's way is best in all way.