cost of independence

Writing in support of the Southern Baptist news service, Baptist Press, Philip Robertson highlights the cost of independence to the Independent Baptist churches (largely fundamentalists).

It is a plan that unifies. With regard to missions, the old adage is true, "We can do more together than we can do individually." While I have many independent Baptist friends, I am not an independent Baptist, because I believe in the Cooperative Program. After all, what is it that sets the Southern Baptist Convention apart from other denominations who are doctrinally and theologically like-minded? The Cooperative Program unites us around a specific plan to fulfill the Great Commission. Churches in other denominations share a common cause, but they don’t necessarily share a common plan. Our commitment to the Word of God and the plan of Cooperative Program missions really is the glue that uniquely binds our convention together.

The contrast between the strengths of the SBC Cooperative Program and the weaknesses of our independent churches, mission boards and missionaries and our faith missions deputation practices highlights one of the most important costs of the fundamentalist flight from the denominations some years ago.

The fundamentalist position at the time was that independence for the sake of preserving purity of the faith was worth the cost of losing the power of cooperative efforts like the CP. As a missionary, I have often wished for a more efficient means of raising support and maintaining a mission ministry. But if it were in the SBC CP, for example, I would also be linked in with the likes of Rick Warren and others whose theological/ecclesiastical positions I would find more than distasteful.

There is a cost to independence, but in my mind, the cost is well worth it, if independent churches can maintain orthodoxy.



  1. Marla says:

    I know this isn’t FaceBook but can I just click the “Like This” button

  2. Good points Don. It was the cooperative program that prompted initial deliberations that eventually convinced me to break all my SBC ties. While the churches in which I grew up were distinctly fundamental in belief, they seemed to find it impossible to shed their Southern Baptist label. (Still do.)

    To this day there is a group of churches in my home town that protest nearly every SBC program, call out popular SBC pastors by name and refuse to cooperate with 95% of all local SBC churches. Some stopped giving money to the SBC years ago. Still…they have refused to become independent. Why? Missions.

    When I departed for Alaska in 1999 as an independent missionary, my deputation was referred to as “begging” by some. They asked “Why don’t you just join the NAMB and get a regular salary?” I remember my response: “That would cost too much.” I have no regrets.

    That being said, I think our current system is very, very poor and possibly unsustainable for the long-term future. One missionary friend told me his family had visited over 400 churches in three years. He is a dynamic speaker and a very hard worker – they were still lacking funds.

    This summer I read some good thoughts on the matter from Missions Mandate. I believe the time is long past for independent churches to start re-thinking some of the practicalities of the system.