Pastor’s Friday Comments (01.31.20)

Anyone who knows anything about the American religious landscape knows that we live in a “post-denominational age”. Few people are loyal enough to a particular denominational “brand” that, if they leave one congregation, because of moving or any other reason, automatically go looking for a church of the same denomination.

Almost no new church starts include their affiliation in the congregation’s name, and many older congregations have taken the denomination out. Ironically, Southern Baptists, the group that has done the most to taint the Baptist brand in the United States, is particularly prone to this move.

And, of course, many of the megachurches either have no denominational identity or so effectively hide it that their members have no idea what it is.

Nevertheless, I believe that there are still valid reasons for denominational affiliation. We need a vehicle by which to pool our missions funds so that together we can be more effective in ministries in the United States and around the world than any single congregation could be on its own. We need a group that will hold up the beliefs that we have in common so that, if someone knows the group to which you belong, they know something about what you stand for. We need an organization that will support institutions that train ministers and an office that will assist when a congregation requires new staff members. We need a foundation to help protect assets that churches want to invest for good work. We need someone to look after the retirement of ministers. We need someone to provide opportunities for connection and fellowship across congregational lines. Whether you call it a denomination or not, an affiliating organization is a benefit to Christians.

From its earliest days, Parkway Baptist Church has been part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Compared with the Southern Baptist Convention we are a tiny group, but it is a “denomi-network” (not my favorite word) that does all of those things that I have just listed.

Under the leadership of the new Coordinator, Paul Baxley, CBF is engaged in a discernment process called “Toward Bold Faithfulness.” CBF’s leaders are seeking to find out what its members see as the key areas of need and emphasis as we move into our future. They are inviting each of us to participate in that process by completing a survey.  It will only take a few minutes of your time. Whether you think you have anything to add to the conversation or not, I would like for you to take the survey. Just seeing the questions that are being asked will be an encouragement to you as you recognize the efforts of CBF to be relevant to our culture and responsive to our members.

Nothing done by CBF can replace the “on the ground” work of ministry that you do every day through your Christian witness, but it can certainly remind you that you are in this work with a great group of people who share your values and who are interested in representing the best that Baptists can be. I look forward to receiving the results of the survey and I hope you do too.