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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
Missionary Don Clough, New Testament Baptist Church of Rochester, MN
It has been said, "Those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them." It seems that we as Baptists are especially doomed, because we continue to duplicate the mistakes of the past, time and time again. Each generation dusts off the errors of the past and presents them once again as though they were something new and different entirely.
It's amazing how a generation of Baptists can condemn the Conventions of the past, while at the same time they fight tooth and nail to justify the Associations they are part of. And the next generation will point out all the flaws in the Associations, all the while praising the virtues of the Fellowships they have joined. Though these entities may be renamed and rebranded, they are still basically the same thing at the core. Yet, Baptists continue to fall for the old arguments, over and over again. "We can do so much more if we worked together, Brethren! If we join together in this Convention/Association/Fellowship, the work of God will go forward like never before!" But is that really the case?
The churches of the New Testament knew nothing of any such para-church organizations, yet they turned the world upside down for Christ. Those churches didn't need to be a part of any Convention/ Association/Fellowship to cooperate with each other. That is one of the mistaken assumptions that proponents of Conventions/Associations/Fellowships make - that any such cooperation must be organized, and someone must be at the head. The Bible knows nothing of any such organizations, for the churches of the New Testament were totally Independent and Autonomous.
Each and every one of the Conventions, Associations and Fellowships of the past has gone further and further from the precepts of God's Word. And each of these groups have started out relatively tame but have morphed into monsters, filled with power-hungry men that exercise control over the Lord's churches. What makes us think that the current lot will be any different? Have we not learned from the mistakes of the past? Must we continue to repeat them? Preachers often say, "Yeah, but if this groups starts going off doctrinally, I'll just leave it."
The thing that we fail to realize is, even though we might leave such a group, that group continues to grow and to be a corrupting influence. These groups are started with the best of intentions, but they inevitably end up falling into the hands of modernists and liberals. Must we continue building platforms for the Enemy? Sincere men create these institutions and build them up (with buildings and infrastructure), but then corrupt men take the helm and now they have control of that empire. All those tools that good conservative Baptists have built outside of the confines of the Lord's churches will inevitably fall into the hands of the Enemy.
All that it takes for an entire organization to go astray is to have corrupt men in key positions of leadership. Someone might say, "That same thing can happen in a church, too." Well, that's definitely true, but the consequences are far different. If one church goes astray, that is a terrible shame. But if a man-made organization goes astray, how many churches does it take down with it? Eventually, any man-made organization will depart from the faith and take down many with it. Must we continue repeating the mistakes of the past?
And don't think that Baptist Bible Colleges are any different. There again, a group founds a Bible college with the best of intentions. Before too long, modernists and liberals infiltrate, and the great structure that conservative Baptists have built falls into the hands of the Enemy. Must we continue repeating the mistakes of the past? God's way is for Local churches to teach and train their men, not outside organizations, no matter how well intentioned. Here again, Baptists keep falling for the same tired, old arguments, "If a man is going to enter the ministry, he needs to be properly educated. The best way to do that is by sending men off to Bible college." The New Testament knows nothing of Bible colleges, yet that era produced some of the greatest preachers that ever lived.
In spite of the fact that we've all seen so many Bible colleges fall into the hands of liberals, we continue to believe that the next one that comes along with work out just fine. "Oh, but this one's different. So and so is the president, and there's no problem with this one." How long will it last? Will it really stay true to God's Word when every college before it has departed from the faith once delivered to the saints? Inevitably, a charismatic man who doesn't strictly hold to all of the teachings of his predecessor will subtly slip in.
It's only when he has absolute power that people will start to notice that he isn't everything they thought he would be. Because of that, a whole generation will be influenced by this man, and those men will in turn influence the many churches that they become involved in, as well. Must we continue building platforms for the Enemy? Yes you can stop supporting that college, but what about all of the men and women who are still going there and being taught there? That vast empire that you helped to build is now a force to be reckoned with, but it's not a force for God.
Whatever happened to pastors who trained their own men? Doesn't the Bible say that the man of God should be apt to teach? Doesn't the Bible say that the man of God should commit what he has been taught to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also? Where did we get the idea that we need a Bible college to train our men? Have we never read how Paul and Barnabas assembled themselves with the church at Antioch and taught the people?
Those church members were so well-trained that the world began calling them “Christian”, or Christ-like. They did all of that without a Bible college. Time and time again, men have returned from Bible colleges and have had to be retrained because of the garbage they've been taught. Must we continue to repeat the mistakes of the past?
In some ways, Baptists have become like King Hezekiah who, when he heard that his children would face severe judgment because of his actions said, "Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. He said moreover, For there shall be peace and truth in my days." (Isaiah 39:8) Yes, the organization that you're involved with now might be sound in the faith, but history tells us that it will eventually become corrupt. It may not be in your generation, but it may take place in the next.
Chances are, your children and the men that you have trained will not leave that organization because they have become loyal to it. History bears this out, as well, for even though some churches leave these types of organizations when they begin to stray from the truth, the majority of churches choose to stay in the organization, no matter what heresy they have embraced. Must we continue to repeat the mistakes of the past?