Thursday, October 14, 2010

A church by definition is . . .

Through the years, we've been asked to fill out church statement paperwork on candidates for the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (of which I am an alum - 3 times over). Something that has always intrigued me is the definition given for a Southern Baptist church on the form. The form contains these words: "A church is Southern Baptist by definition of (sic) it participates with the Southern Baptist Convention in at least one of the following ways: (1) gives to the Cooperative Program, (2) gives to the Lottie Moon Offering, IMB directly; (3) gives to the Annie Armstrong Offering, NAMB directly; (4) is dually aligned with the SBC; (5) is a member of a local SBC Association; or (6) gives to the SBC Executive Board directly."

None of this is meant as a slam on my fair alma mater (since the definition could be borrowed by NOBTS from another source), but as I noted there are some intriguing aspects in this definition. The first aspect that is intriguing to me is that the word "gives" appears 4 times while the word "believes" appears zero times. Of course some might say belief is covered in option #5 above, but it's a bit disturbing that what "defines" a SBC church could be where our money goes rather than what our heart believes. The second aspect that intrigues me with this definition is that if only 1 of the ways of participation is sufficient to be called a Southern Baptist Congregation, could a mormon ward qualify to be Southern Baptist then if they give money to NAMB or IMB? While I doubt the Latter Day Saints would give to the IMB (since many of their dollars are going to make "I am a Mormon" commercials), I do know of at least one non-denominational church that wanted to send money to the IMB. By the definition provided then, should that non-denominational church really be considered a Southern Baptist church?

I know some of you might say something about the Baptist Faith & Message. Good point, except you will note its absence in the above definition with the possible exception of it being implied in option #5. I, however, am not interested in silence or implied thoughts. If "believe" is more important than "give" perhaps that should be reflected in our definitions. Of course, with autonomy, friends, you are free to "believe" whatever you like about "giving." I, however, hope there is more to being a Southern Baptist church than what is listed above.