the independent Baptist model… specifically rejected

So says David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. A bit more context:

To individuals who may foresee a confederation of churches "that have a common heritage and a common theology but no common methodology," Hankins said: "With all due respect, that is the independent Baptist model that Southern Baptists have specifically and decidedly rejected….

"While Southern Baptists prize local church autonomy, we are not hyper-local church practitioners who believe in no extra-congregational ecclesiastical structures. We find no contradiction in believing in both. We believe the current structure of Southern Baptists is appropriate for Southern Baptist ecclesiology, life and work…. It fits who we are and what we want to do. And I believe Southern Baptists, by and large, want it to continue."

You can read the entire article here: “Cooperation ‘key’ to resurgence; offers strategy to strengthen CP”. The comments come from an address given to the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.

It is true that arguments can be made concerning cooperative efforts like the SBC Cooperative Program, but this particular address seems to belie the unanimity, cohesiveness, and commitment of all Southern Baptists to the idea.

After all, the speaker seems to be “rallying the troops” to the idea of the CP, which has fallen from 10 percent of churches undesignated offerings to 6 percent currently, according to the article. The article also says “Southern Baptists only give an average of 2 percent of their income for missions, including CP.”

So how well is that denominational “extra-congregational” structure working? How committed are the SBC churches and individuals to it?

That is not to say that Independent Baptists are superior in their giving patterns. I have no idea what those might be and doubt that it would be that easy to find out. (And I am not sure how the SBC figures their statistics out either.) And that is also not to say that the Cooperative Program isn’t a powerful idea and tool for missions.

However, it does seem that the whole denominational thing is on a decline like all other aspects of church life. While the SBC men have rejected the independent idea, it may be that the advantages of cooperative effort are losing their charm. And it may also be that the independent ministry model isn’t so bad, either, but that is another article.



  1. “And it may also be that the independent ministry model isn’t so bad, either”

    You _could_ be on to something here!


  2. Keith says:

    Independent churches? How is that Biblical?

    • All of the churches in the New Testament were independent. They were all subject to apostolic authority, as we are, but they elected no councils, established no structures outside of themselves. Even the council of Ac 15 only made recommendations on a question to the other churches, they did not establish any kind of ongoing hierarchy.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  3. Having being a pastor of two Southern Baptist Churches, one GARBC, one WBF Norris church and one independent baptist of all baptists and one IBFI church, I would say the structure of the policy all have their good points. New Testament seems to say if we are Christians we are not individual Christians, but we are in a Body of Believers. Which would seem to say, we are not to be independent of each other. While there is the local church idea and the Body of Christ idea, it still seems we are all to be in the same frame of mind as to our conduct as Christians in the Body of Christ in the local church.

    • Hi Charles, good to hear from you.

      Well, there is strength in the idea of a Cooperative Program, we can’t deny that. At least, from a pragmatic point of view, that is. But I believe the independent structure is what the New Testament portrays. I don’t think I would go so far as to say the denominational structure is wrong, but it seems to me to be a later pragmatic development, rather than the apostolic model.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  4. Keith says:

    I think that the independent structure (or absence of structure) is the later pragmatic model. It developed as a pragmatic reaction to denominations becoming liberal and “keeping” the buildings of conservatives who wished to separate. In the painful process of losing buildings and institutions to corrupt denominational beauracracies, some “baptized” independency and mistakenly came to believe that it somehow provided a greater barrier against heresy and other problems. Evidence that it provides no such barrier is abundant.

    • I agree with your assessment of recent history, but I do believe independence is the New Testament model.

      Whether independence is a better guard against liberalism etc, or not, than denominationalism, is of course a matter of opinion.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  5. Roy says:

    Paul wrote to Titus and what was it he asked Titus to do in the first chapter? And what were those appointed men along with Titus supposed to teach the older men in the churches to do and the older women to do in the second chapter? That is a five generation lineup, right?

    Maybe only four. Still it must be five if there are a few mature men in the church besides the pastor.

    “…they did not establish any kind of ongoing hierarchy.”

    Great thought-provoking comments you all. Of course there is a clear sense that there is no hierarchy but what God establishes and even then it depends what we mean by “Hierarchy.” I am sure the way you are using it is not according to “service” right? Apostolic succession is no good either since at any point it can break down for many reasons.

    The most important thing to me in all this idea of independence is simply parentage. I believe that when John says, babes, young men, fathers he is appealing to levels of growth whereby the mature will come from the babes in the fellowship and their works will place them in proper minstries by virtue of their gifts, there in the church, usually.

    Far too much is made out of seminaries and universities unfortunately in my estimation, and not enough out of simply reading through the Scriptures repeatedly and THEN doing doctrinal studies and language studies.

    (BTW, Jesus also taught stages, right? At one point he alludes to the least of these [disciples] righteous men and prophets as he spoke about rewards, which is the same stages as John spoke of I believe.

    But whatever, let NOT the church be without deacons and overseers in my estimation. My Dad suffered greatly by being so “independent” Baptist he ended up with no deacons. He had been very popular and influential in Efree movement (Swindoll’s crowd) for a couple decades til they lost all standards. It was a tough but wonderful “coming out.”

    Again further, let NOT the overseer, pastor, bishop, do all the preaching! He must be very apt to teach, so as to sit back and evaluate and meet with his men when they have spoken to the church. If independent then all must be accountable to one another and have open lines of communication! Train preacher boys right in the church, of course. Many godly men have done this in earlier years. Why not???? What a blessing!

    It is inspiring and fearful for younger men in Christ to “stretch themselves forward to the bishopric” as Greek seems to say in 1 Timothy 3:1 -while IN the local church itself – and there come wonderful teaching moments before and following their messages to the body of Christ if the pastor is “pasturing” (poimeo i.e. shepherding) them.

    All may learn if the overseer, oversees, using his powers of being “apt to teach.”

    All of this is premised on actually discipling like Jesus, not just having institutional services. In Acts 20 it is said of Paul not that he preached to midnight in the Greek it says he dialogued til midnight!

    We need a revival of good discussion. Interesting stuff here. Thanks you guys.

    By the way I would love to check out your dvd THrough the Bible messages, especially if you do good Book Reviews. Birds Eye views of books of the Bible are so useful in many ways.

    How can I get a copy?…. rgmpilgrim {at} aol(.)com

    Thanks again. Roy

  6. Roy, I don’t quite follow all that you are saying in this one. It seems that you are not addressing the point. We are not talking about the work of ordaining new generations to the ministry, or to different levels of growth. We are talking about one church having authority over another church, or a denominational board having authority over a group of churches. These denominational things just aren’t present in the Bible.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  7. Keith says:


    If you think that all denominations work like: “one church having authority over another church, or a denominational board having authority over a group of churches,” then you need to investigate a bit more.

    That would be episcopal polity — one form of denominational structure.

    However, presbyterian structure is representative. It is federal. A completely different thing.

    • I recognize that there are different forms of polity, but they amount to the same thing: people outside a local church having authority over the decisions of a local church. I know of a case where a man was disciplined out of a Presby church (and I believe rightly so) but he appealed to the session. The session reinstated the man. I guarantee you I would never put up with that kind of interference.

      Generally speaking, Baptist denominationalism has had the least amount of outside control, but often power is exercised by granting or withholding funds in some way. There are also issues where cooperation involves you in the support of false teachers (through missions cooperatives, or seminaries, or some such thing).

      As a result, I am still for the independent approach, in spite of its drawbacks.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  8. Keith says:

    The session is the body who would discipline a man out of a church. The session is the elder board.

    If someone feels that a session has mishandled a situation (which surely you don’t think impossible), they can appeal to presbytery — which is made up of all the session members in a region. The presbytery can overturn the decision of an individual session. Should someone (an individual or an individual session) think that the presbytery acted inapproriately, they can appeal to General Assembly — which is made up of all the presbyteries which are made up of all the sessions which are made up of all the elders.

    None of this is intereference unless a pastor or the elders are the only humans who are not “also under authority.”

    In the independent modal, where do you go for an appeal? There is nowhere to go.

    • In 1 Cor 5, where do you go for appeal? To the devil, and quite appropriately.

      As far as the terms for Presbies, whatever they are called it was a group of people outside the local church. The case I know of was not handled improperly. It was pure wickedness on the part of those outside the local church. And besides being interference, it isn’t biblical at all.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  9. Keith says:

    Yes, let’s talk I Cor 5! So, let’s say a husband, wife, and step son are in a church. Then, the step son has an incestuous relationship with his step mother. But, the Pastor and elders won’t do anything about it. What does the husband do? Who holds the negligent leadership accountable?

    As I Cor 5 (and large chunks of the New Testament) clearly show, “local” churches are not infallible.

    • The apostle held the church in Corinth accountable. Not a body of churches. Not a presbytery. An apostle. And the apostles today hold churches accountable through the Word of God. And of course the Lord ultimately holds them accountable.

      No one said anything about churches being infallible.

      BTW, you have the scenario wrong. It is extremely unlikely that the father or the step-mother were in the church. The language suggests that the father was dead. The discipline only applied to the man. So it is impossible that the woman was part of the church.

      But whatever, that has nothing to do with the point.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  10. Keith says:

    I know that I did not reproduce the scenario exactly.

    My point was that the church in Corinth — who had God’s word and knew better, even the non-Christians knew better — was not doing what it should do. Paul had to hold them accountable.

    Churches today — who likewise have God’s word, even more of it — can and do mess up just as badly. However, Paul’s not around anymore. Might it not be good to have the help of some other Christian leaders?

    I don’t know where you independent guys get the idea that only the apostles were allowed to speak with authority beyond a “local” congregation.

    Conectivity is no guarantee of purity (as your example of the man being improperly reinstated demonstrates), but neither is independency. Therefore, it would seem like it would be best to set up the government of the church to be most helpful when we are not scandalously failing.

    • What we think is best is to set up the government of the church according to the Scriptures. It won’t prevent scandalous failures. Neither method does.

      And let me say that I believe there is considerable latitude given to Christians and churches when we come to church life. A lot of things just aren’t specified, one way or another, in the Bible. But I don’t see any justification for a council of churches or a Bishop of Rome, say, having authority over any other than his own church, etc. What I see is local churches making autonomous decisions (subject to the apostles) and the only council acting in an advisory capacity rather than a dictatorial capacity (and of course the council comprised primarily apostles).

      So we don’t believe denominational structures have any Biblical mandate. That isn’t to say they are condemned, or that Christians who use them are sinning, but I don’t think they are Scriptural and that they cause more problems than they solve.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  11. For those who believe a denominational hierarchy should be there to solve unresolved problems on a local church level – what do you do when it is the hierarchy causing the problem? For example, when a denomination accepts homosexuality or now believes that Jesus is not the only way to Heaven, who is there to fix the problems the hierarchy is creating by enforcing those corrupt views and practices on the local church level?

  12. Keith says:

    You either (a) work to get the denomination to repent and change, and/or (b) withdraw from the denomination.

    The point — for evangelical presbyterians anyway — is that (contra Don) the Bible does not support individualism/independency. No person, and no congregation, should set itself up without (or to avoid) accountability — set itself up without checks and balances.

    The point is not that connectionalism guarantees a lack of problems. As Don says, “It won’t prevent scandalous failures. Neither method does.”

    However, connectionalism does provide an accountability structure — which is Biblical and good for both the one needing correction and the one having to give the correction.

    It also seems like you may still not be understanding presbyterian polity. There is not a “hierarchy” apart from the local churches. The local churches come together to make the decisions. They do not have decisions handed down to them from a hierarchy of bishops. Again, whatever the “denomination” does it does by the decision and vote of the entire group of local churches (represented by their elders) which make up the denomination. The churches are deciding not being decided for.

    When a majority of local churches in the denomination (we might say when a majority of congregations in the church) vote for wrong, the minority should try to get them to repent and change. If the minority determines that they cannot succeed at calling the majority to repentance, they can withdraw from the denomination.

    Normally, however, there will not be just one congregation that sees the error and decides to withdraw. If it is just one congregation, that congregation should ponder very carefully whether or not it is in the right. Do they really think God has revealed the truth to them alone?

    For example, when the PCA was formed a large number of congregations withdrew from the PCUS all together at the same time.

    Of course there could be a case in which a single congregation determines that, within their current denomination, they are the only ones maintaining the truth. In that case, when they withdraw, they should join in accountability with some other congregation or denomination — it will never be the case that there is only one local church in the whole world that maintains the truth.

    Those congregations that hold the truth together should hold one another accountable and help one anoter.

    • All that is well and good, Keith, but you really have no Biblical authority for the model. There are no sessions, no presbyteries, no annual meetings, etc. in the NT. So what you have is a kind of pragmatism. What we have is an attempt to mirror exactly what we see in the NT.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  13. Keith says:


    Come on now, we aren’t talking about schedules here (annual meetings). And even if we were, independents have schedules just like presbyterians, so by that standard you’re not “mirroring” any better.

    Also, you know as well as I do that there is more to the Bible than historical narrative. There is more to obeying the Bible than immitating historical passages.

    In this discussion, the Biblical principles which teach humility, submission, accountability, fellowship, unity, discipline, etc. must be allowed. They should not be minimized and brushed off with words like “pragmatism.”

    Beyond that, however, there are sessions and presbyteries in the Bible. Presbytery is literally a biblical word.

    The best example of all this is, of course, Acts 15. You wish to dismiss it or explain it away. Nevertheless, several things are clear from this text. Here’s how Thomas Witherow put it back in the 1800s:

    “Let it be remarked that, in the simple narrative, the following facts stand noticeably out:— 1. That Barnabas and Paul had a dispute about circumcision with certain false teachers who came down from Judea. 2. This dispute was not settled in the Church of Antioch, where it originated. 3. The matter was referred to an external ecclesiastical assembly, consisting of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. 4. This assembly met publicly to deliberate on the question. 5. They pronounced a decision. 6. To this decision the Church of Antioch and the Churches of Syria and Cilicia yielded submission.

    These facts are on the face of the narrative, and cannot be denied. That they were permitted to take place, and that a record of them is inserted in the Holy Scriptures, seems strange if these things did not happen for an example to us.

    Were it enough for the Church of Antioch to be made certain of the mind of God upon the point in dispute, Paul who was present could have declared this with infallible accuracy; for he was one, who not only spake as he was moved by the Holy Ghost, but who often decided matters equally important by a word from his lips or a stroke of his pen. A single sentence from the very apostle who was then at Antioch, is admitted by the Church of God to be decisive on any point of Christian faith or Christian duty; so that if an infallible decision was the only thing required, one does not see why the matter was ever carried farther.

    When the case did come up to Jerusalem, had the appeal been to inspiration only, one does not see what business the elders had to meet with the apostles to consider the matter; surely the apostles were competent to declare the mind of God without the aid of uninspired men. If nothing was necessary but for the apostles to pronounce an infallible deliverance, why was there such a thing as disputing in the assembly, or even the semblance of deliberation, or why should one apostle after another state his opinion? We would suppose the deliverance of a single inspired man quite sufficient.

    If the disputing that occurred in the assembly was only among the elders, the elders must have been very silly to dispute about a matter that inspiration was to settle, and with which they, as uninspired men, could have nothing to do, but to listen to the voice of God; and why did the apostles permit them to dispute, when a word from the infallible expounders of the divine will could have decided the question? And when the decree went forth, why was it in the name of the apostles and elders that were at Jerusalem?

    There is one way of accounting for this satisfactorily, and only one so far as we can see. These events were permitted to take place, and are recorded for our guidance under all similar circumstances. Should any difference arise, which cannot be settled within the limits of the congregation where it occurs, it is to be referred for settlement to the rulers of the Church in their assembled capacity.

    If the apostles were alive upon the earth to meet with the elders, and by aid of their inspiration, to guide them to an unerring decision, and were we to refer our differences to such an assembly, this would be literal obedience to the example put before us in the Divine Word.

    But when in their personal absence, we refer our differences to the assembly of the elders, and when the elders, guided by the inspired writings of the apostles as contained in the Scriptures, pronounce a deliverance on the question, and when to such deliverance we yield submission to the Lord, this is more than acting up to the spirit, it is acting up to everything but the letter, of apostolic example.

    We are thus conducted to this twofold fact, that in the Apostolic Church there existed the privilege of referring disputed matters to the decision of an assembly of living men, external to the congregation where such dispute originated, and composed of the rulers of the Church; and that this ecclesiastical assembly, in the absence of the apostles, consisting simply of the rulers of the Churcb, has a right to meet, to deliberate, to decide, and to demand obedience to its decisions in the Lord.

    This twofold principle we designate the privilege of appeal to the assembly of elders, and the right of government exercised by them in their associate capacity.

    • Well, Keith, you may think this is conclusive, but I do not.

      Acts 15 doesn’t indicate that the church in Antioch had any quarrel with the apostle Paul. The problem appeared to originate in Jerusalem:

      NAU Acts 15:1 ¶ Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

      So Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to see if something had gone wrong in Jerusalem. Along the way, they reported to Phenice and Samaria and brought great joy to the disciples. They were received by the apostles. The meeting revealed problems in Jerusalem, the Jerusalem council proved the orthodoxy of the men in Jerusalem and announced it to the other churches. They repudiated the men who had claimed authority from Jerusalem. End of story.

      NAU Acts 15:24 “Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls,

      Anyway, you can see that we are both quite intransigent in our positions. I wonder that you persist.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  14. Keith says:

    I answered a direct question by Jerry. You said there is “no” biblical authority. I demonstrated that, whether it convinces all or not (it obviously hasn’t for quite some time) there is, at least (I think far more than that), some biblical support for it. Those who hold the presbyterian position do not do so for “pragmatic” reasons.

    You can intransigently maintain that our interpretation is wrong — many godly men have done so. But don’t brush away the position of many other godly men who are trying to base their position on scripture not practicality alone with the label of pragmatism.

    That’s all

    • Ok, I was thinking that your assertions of accountability, right of appeal, etc, were those things not specifically covered by Scripture. I recognize that some of this comes down to simply a matter of interpretation.

      Since these are matters of interpretation, I don’t think we can absolutely say one side or the other is absolutely wrong (i.e., in sin).

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  15. Keith says:

    I think those who refuse accountability of the wider church are sinful. But we can agree to disagree