In discussing the future of the association in terms of membership, partnership, and cooperation, I raised the question of like-minded evangelicals becoming active parts of SBC associations. Some associations around the country are pursuing this line of thinking, acknowledging that many churches follow a theology that is in lock step with one of the Baptist Faith and Message statements in every aspect except claiming denominational affiliation. Of course, there is some resistance to the depth of partnership such a move would entail, and some fear that level of partnership is more akin to compromising Baptist distinctiveness.
In their annual article summarizing the report of the SBC Executive Committee, the Baptist Press notes that messengers approved Guidestone Financial Resources to extend services to like-minded evangelicals through the creation of two wholly-owned subsidiary corporations. The article quotes O.S. Hawkins, “We are only requesting the opportunity to serve a larger audience because we firmly believe it will enhance our ability to serve our Southern Baptist pastors in a more cost-effective manner for the long-term.” Just as Guidestone has recognized the benefits of a larger audience available to them without a theological compromise, I believe associations will soon ask their own messengers to make a similar decision for similar reasons. Associations would benefit financially, but that is not the real benefit. The kingdom of Christ benefits when the body of Christ works together. Though there are additional steps to take for associations to experience a fuller level of cooperation across denominational lines, this would be a key first step.