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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15


Are Baptists Independent Because

They Oppose The Conventions?

Norman H. Wells

From The Church That Jesus Loved, 1973 (Chapter 11)

As used by Baptists, the word "independent" comes in for a lot of abuse. The dictionary tells us the word independent means, "Not subordinate or subject to nor dependent for support upon another government, person, or thing."


Practically All Baptist Churches Claim To Be Independent


Churches in the American Baptist Convention claim to be independent. Churches in the Southern Baptist Convention claim to be independent. The same can be said of all other organizations, conventions, associations, fellowships, etc. of Baptists. Churches in the World Baptist Fellowship and the Baptist Bible Fellowship all claim to be independent and they use the same arguments as the other Conventions and Associations.


All these churches claim they can be a part of these organizations and still be independent. All Baptists Agree — A Church Should Be Independent! All Baptists agree that a church should be independent. They use such words as, self-governing, autonomous, democratic, free, etc., to describe themselves.


Bitterly Resented


I don't suppose there is anything that a Baptist pastor resents more than to be told his church is not independent. He knows it should be!


False Ideas of Independence


Some Baptists believe they are independent simply because they do not belong to man-made systems of church government such as those of the Roman Catholic or Episcopal system. Some Baptists believe that they are independent because they are fundamental in their doctrine. Some Baptists believe they are independent simply because they oppose the Southern Baptist Convention or some similar group. Others believe they are independent because they have pulled out of some Convention or organization in protest against modernism, liberalism, corrupted literature, etc. And so it goes!


What Does It Mean To Be Independent?


The word has been allowed to degenerate into meaning any Baptist that is not lined up in one of the main Convention or Organizations of Baptists. At about the time I was saved the revolt was on among Baptists in the south. Churches, in large numbers, were pulling out of the Southern Baptist Convention because of its modernism, liberalism, corrupted literature, compromise, etc. This revolt continues till this day. The same thing happened in the north to the old Northern Baptist Convention. These churches that pulled out were called independent because they were not lined up with the main group.


By and large these churches that pulled out of the 'Southern and Northern Conventions were not necessarily opposed to the organization itself but just what the organization was doing. They were protesting the action of the organization — not the organization.


Organized Again!


These churches, because they were not really opposed to the organization of these conventions, found it easy to join or form similar organizations. Thus came into being such groups as The Conservative Baptists, The World Baptist, The Baptist Bible Fellowship, etc.


There Is No Difference


As far as organization is concerned there is little if any difference in these groups. The Southern Baptist Convention, The American Baptist Convention, The General Association of Regular Baptists, The Conservative Baptist, The American Baptist Association, The World Baptist Fellowship, The Baptist Bible Fellowship, etc., all look alike as far as organization is concerned. If a church in the Baptist Bible Fellowship is to be considered independent then a church in the Southern Baptist Convention is to be considered independent!


These groups all have their National Organizations with National presidents. These groups all have their by-laws that govern the churches. They all have their National Papers that speak for the churches. They all have their State Organizations. They all have their Mission Boards, and in varying degrees, many other official boards. They all, as an organization, own property.


All Started The Same Way


Every existing organization of Baptists started the same way. The idea was to have a fellowship of independent Baptist Churches that could cooperate in a worldwide effort. Every one of them is in some stage of the development of a hierarchy that will rob the churches of their independence!


Organization Involves Compromise


Recently, in the Baptist Bible Fellowship, a large number of the cooperating churches found it necessary to compromise what they believed about baptism! They now find themselves identified with those who have departed from the Baptist position — but they have to compromise their belief for the sake of unity in the organization! Soon they will have to do the same thing on the Lord's Supper. And so it goes, little by little, these organizations all follow the same path! History establishes the fact.


Excuses! Excuses!


Many excuses are given by good pastors in these groups as to why they stay in them even when they do not agree with the organization. I've been listening to the same excuse for twenty years from Southern Baptists, American Baptists, etc., and now from World Baptists, Baptist Bible Baptists, etc. They are always the same.


Independent? Yes!


We are happy to be independent Baptists. We do not belong to any organized group of Baptist of any kind. We have fellowship with Baptists and their churches all over this country (and other countries too). We send out missionaries! We start new churches! The Lord is blessing! Yes, we are independent! We stand opposed not only to the compromise, modernism, etc., of the organization but to the unscriptural organizations themselves!