Pastor, Why? #6: Why Are We "Independent"?

“Independent” simply means we do not belong to a formal organization of churches such as the Southern Baptist Convention. Our church calls its own pastor, determines what missionaries we support, and decides important decisions by congregational vote. We fellowship with other churches, but we are not linked together by any man made organization. Nearly all Protestant churches and about 90% of Baptist churches belong to a denomination. So why do we choose to remain independent?

  

We are independent because of the Biblical model

  • The local church body is the final court of appeal in church matters (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 6:1-7). There is no Biblical hierarchy, council, synod or general assembly above the church for the hearing of church matters.
  • The only Biblical church offices are pastors and deacons (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). Both are positions strictly within the local church, and never over any other churches.
  • There is no Biblical office standing between the church and Christ. He alone, not even the pastor (1 Peter 5:3) is head of the local church (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18). There is no archbishop or denominational president in the Bible.
  • The Apostles established no organization of or over the churches. In fact, they declared they would not “trouble” the churches (Acts 15:19)--a far cry from modern denominations.
  • What about independent Baptist “fellowships”?

If a “fellowship” means churches getting together for a meeting or potluck, we are all in favor. If it’s a defined organization with an elected president and officers, we are not interested in joining. Due to human nature, even the best of organizations tend to become marred by politics, pride and exclusivism, and to exert control over member churches in subtle ways.

We are independent because of what IBC’s are known for

  • Here is how others describe Independent Baptists (as found on numerous web sites):   “Most Independent Baptist churches are conservative in their beliefs and styles of worship and reject many things popular in denominational churches because of worldliness and appeal to the flesh. Many IBC’s have organized outreach ministries such as ‘soul winning’ in which groups go out and evangelize surrounding areas, bus ministries, prison ministries, and send missionaries and evangelists to other parts of the country or to other countries to start more churches. They tend to reject many things found in many denominational churches because they believe in the Biblical doctrine of separation.” What other kind of church would a committed, Bible-practicing Christian WANT to be a part of? Read 1 Corinthians 6:13-14; Ephesians 4:17-24; 5:25-27; Philippians 4:8 and 1 Peter 1:15-19; 2:9.
  • In the 1800's nearly all Baptist churches in America belonged to conventions or unions. However, worldliness and weakening beliefs about core doctrines caused many churches to leave their denominations. Most joined new associations, but some Baptist churches realized the lack of any Biblical basis for such organizations and chose to remain independent. Thus began the Independent Baptist movement. Today, “Independent Baptist churches make up the largest body of fundamentalist churches in the world” with 14,000 churches and 2.5 million members in the U.S. alone. [“What is Independent Baptist?”, David Cloud, May 12, 2011; Statistics from Church Still Works, Reed & Chappell, Striving Together Pub., 2009]

We are Independent because of missions

  • The “denominational” or “convention” method of missions:

Member churches send their “missions money” to headquarters which selects and supports missionaries from the pool of funds. There is no Biblical basis for this method of missions, and churches often end up supporting programs and people with whom they might not agree.

  • The “Independent” method of missions:

What other kind of church would a Christian want to be a part of?

 

A missionary is approved and sent by a local church. He then visits other like-minded churches to raise prayer and financial support, and regularly reports to his supporting churches. This model is based on Acts 13:1-3 and Philippians 4:10-16. Though the cooperative method may appear more efficient, the reality is that Independent Baptist churches send and support six times more missionaries per capita than the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program. [Baptist Bible Tribune, April 15, 1999, “Leading in Missions”; Church Still Works, 2009]

 

We have chosen to remain “independent” because denominations and conventions have no Biblical basis. They tend to replace Christ as the head of each church, to become corrupted by politics, to decline into liberalism, and are less efficient at evangelizing the world. We are committed to doing things “the Bible way” and to the historical and Biblical distinctives that have marked and blessed the Independent Baptist movement.