JD
is in Indianapolis this week for the annual meeting of the SBC (that’s Southern
Baptist Convention for those of you not down with Baptist lingo). Our church cooperates
missionally with the SBC and other parachurch organizations because we believe
unified effort between Gospel-loving churches increases our effectiveness in
church planting, leadership training, and public witness. Here’s a rerun of a post elaborating on our relationship with the SBC in regards to missions:

There seem to be two extremes when it comes to working with the Convention for the purpose of missions.

The first extreme is when churches depend on the agencies of the SBC to do church planting and missions
for them.
This is what I call “bad parachurchism.” OK, yes, I totally made that term up. But
here’s what I mean: there is good parachurch and bad parachurch. GOOD
parachurch ministries FACILITATE the ministry of the church. A good
parachurch ministry attempts to be a resource to the local church
through which the church can do her ministry more effectively. BAD parachurch takes ministry from a local church and does it for her. Bad parachurch says, “Give us money and people and we’ll do ministry for you.”

The
SBC was born out of the “good parachurch” model: the agencies of the
Convention facilitated the ministries of local churches. Local churches
led in the ministry, the Convention served the initiatives of those churches
but it was the local churches that took the lead and got things done.
Over time, it appears that some parts of the SBC have shifted into ‘bad
parachurch’ mode. They expect the local churches to turn over resources
so the agencies can do the work. Burgeoning bureaucracies were created
that basically duplicated what was to be happening in the local church.
We, the local church, are to give our money and be happy with the
results, and scolded for not giving properly.

Churches are God’s vehicle for ministry. Jesus’ strategy for reaching and transforming the world was have His Apostles plant
churches in every community (this was Paul’s entire strategy!); the
local church has the potential to provide the most wholistic, community-loving, Gospel-preaching,
multi-generational community necessary for fully-orbed ministry.

Local churches are best suited to provide the resources, training,
accountability and drive necessary to accomplish church planting.
Churches plant churches. For any parachurch organization, including the
National and State Baptist Conventions, taking  this initiative out of
the hands of the local church is surely doomed to failure. (to note, I
am grateful for and in support of some parachurch ministries which, by
my definition above, would be considered ‘not ideal’–i.e., ministries
not directly tied to a local church. I am in support of them because
they are doing things
that local churches are simply not doing yet. I am grateful for their
ministries, and personally contribute financially to them… I am also
grateful that many of them are actively seeking ways to participate
with
the local church. We have representatives of several of these
ministries in our church, and I am VERY grateful for them.)

We, the Summit Church, don’t just recruit people to work for the
International Mission Board (IMB) or take up money to give entirely to
them. These church plants around the world are ours. But before I get
ahead of myself, let me mention the opposite extreme:

The second extreme is when churches believe they can do it all by
themselves and do not need the expert guidance of parachurch
organizations like the International Mission Board.
The blessing and curse of my
generation seems to be an independent, can-do spirit when it comes to
mission. I just finished reading Stephen Neill’s A History of Christian Missions,
and one of the points he makes is that though Protestants have
historically been extremely zealous for missions, we often have charged
into unreached areas like Lone Rangers with no sense of who else was
doing what for the cause of Christ there. Because of our lack of
cooperation, we have often repeated easily avoidable mistakes and
caused unnecessary chaos in the fields they we are trying to reach. The
IMB has full time “experts” devoted to knowing the various fields,
studying what methods work, and linking like minded movements together.
They provide a wonderful organization through which to plant churches.

We try to avoid either extreme. We don’t just give money and
recruits to the IMB and ask them to do our church planting for us. But
neither do we charge out to it alone. Our church has chosen to
cooperate missionally with the Southern
Baptist Convention because we believe unified effort between
Gospel-loving churches increases our effectiveness in church planting,
leadership training, and public witness.

The IMB’s massive resources (that are compiled from so many churches
working together) make it so that our missionaries do not have to raise
support. The IMB makes a great structure for technical training of our
missionaries, ensuring their care while on the field, and giving
strategic direction. But they are still “our” (the Summit’s) churches
we are planting. The initiative lies with us; we use the IMB as the vehicle through which we plant churches. To note, the IMB has been great to work with in this regard.