Why Associate?

Why Associate?

Written By Kenneth Terry

Why Associate?

There is great value in our associations when like-minded Christians from an association of churches come together to do the work of God together; where we prove that we are truly better together. As a pastor of tiny churches in rural California, I have seen this value when my church has benefited from resources provided by the association, and in the opportunities it gave us to fellowship and worship in the larger context of the association. I have heard it questioned why have an association since there is no such organization in Scripture, and have been challenged with the fact that the local church can do all that the association does. Still, I believe Scripture provides evidence of association between the churches in the New Testament, thus proving the basis, and value of associations. 

1 John 1:3 states, “what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” Since we have fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, so we too may have fellowship with each other. Yes, that fellowship includes and begins with the local church, but should extend to all true Christians; however, although we may fellowship with other Christian denominations and groups in agreed ways, I propose that we fellowship within our CSBC associations in even greater ways. Turning to Acts 2:42 we read, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Again, this text is evidence of how the first church functioned, and a guide to how our churches should worship. However, we notice that before devotion to fellowship, the text states they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. Our fellowship can be greater when we have doctrinal agreement, and since we all agree to the statements of the Baptist Faith and Message, we have even more reason to fellowship or associate together. I am not trying to make the Baptist Faith and Message a creed here, just stating that our doctrinal agreement means that there should be no barrier to our association with our like-minded churches in the CSBC. 

Evidence of Association Between the Churches of the New Testament.  

When Judaizers came to Antioch adding works to salvation, the church sent Paul and Barnabas to the Jerusalem church to deal with it. Acts 15:2, “And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.” If the church at Antioch was autonomous, why send the pastors to Jerusalem for the decision when they could do so themselves? Also in 1 Corinthians 8:23 we read, “As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ.” Why have messengers of the churches if there is no association between churches? 

I believe in the autonomy of the church, led by the Holy Spirit, to make the final and right decisions for that church, but I also believe in association where a wealth of Spiritual giants can give wise counsel and direction.  

The Value of Associations 

1 Corinthians 8 and 9 are great texts proving the value of association. After Paul’s message was approved by the Jerusalem church, they requested that he remember the poor in Jerusalem, which he was faithful to do (Cf. Galatians 2:10). Having collected the offerings from those churches, he sent Titus, messengers from the churches (and hoped to go himself), to give the offering to the Jerusalem church. 2 Corinthians 8:14 says, “at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality.” We have the privilege of helping each other, especially when our churches are in need. 2 Corinthians 9:13 says, “Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all.”  

We Share in our Blessings 

I have been in CSBC associations long enough to see strong churches face days of shrinking and struggling, but the strong can bless the weak in our association, and we can do more together. 

Since we have the basis of our association established, association should extend beyond the church and include our CSBC associations. Scripture confirms evidence of association in the early church; therefore, we associate with each other. We learn to value each other even more during the many “life-cycles” in a church, especially when we can be a blessing to each other. Let us grow our association between churches.

About the Author

Kenneth Terry
Director of Missions, Mother Lode Baptist Association

Dr. Kenneth R. Terry received his Th.D. from Andersonville Theological Seminary and has been a Pastor in Southern Baptist Churches for over Thirty years. Dr. Terry lives with his wife in Mokelumne Hill, California where he is the Director of Missions for the Mother Lode Baptist Association.

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