Why Be Involved Denominationally?
By Chris Todd
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith,
and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man,
unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13
In my travels across this denomination, I have met some great people, visited some wonderful churches, and experienced firsthand the diversity of our movement. I believe Free Will Baptists have some of the best pastors, leaders, and lay people anywhere.
Yet, I remember a time as a younger pastor, as I struggled to juggle the demands of shepherding a congregation, that I could not see the benefit of denominational affiliation. The requirement to attend quarterly conference meetings seemed an unneccessary and all-too-often-useless venture. I felt my time could be better spent “knocking doors” rather than sitting through a business meeting listening to older preachers argue about things that weren’t an issue for me.
Fourteen years into the ministry, I realize I had a lot to learn. Don’t take that personally. I am speaking about me, not anyone else. This is not the first time an older (and hopefully wiser) version of myself has come to the realization the younger me thought he knew more than he actually did. Allow me to explain why being part of a conference, and on a larger scale, being part of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, is more important than most realize.
Moral Integrity. Sadly, I have witnessed the fall or fanaticism of more preachers than I can count. Whether he fell into gross moral sin or proclaimed all other ministers false prophets, it nearly always began with isolation. Every ordained minister is accountable in some way to the board that holds his licensure. When that ministers fails to appear or participate in the local conference, he sets himself apart from the flock and makes himself vulnerable to the enemy who walks about seeking whom he may devour.
Gospel Impact. The command is clear in Mark 16:15: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” I cannot name a single local church going into “all the world.” And truthfully, many aren’t even going across the street to share the gospel. Many of us have become satisfied with our few, and have lost sight of Jesus’ command. We may not all be able to go across the globe, but we can all send. Currently, Free Will Baptist International Missions has 76 missionaries in eight countries, all sharing the gospel in unreached territory. The sending power of IM is directly related to the churches that give collectively to this cause. What is your church doing to complete the Great Commission?
Doctrinal Purity. Over the years, Free Will Baptists have raised up some great leaders…of other denominations. Far too often, the most passionate, capable, and effective among us are lost to other groups because they are not taught Free Will Baptist doctrine from their youth. As a collective body, whether through Randall House Sunday School curriculum or by attending one of our Bible colleges, it is crucial to teach Free Will Baptist doctrine to people of all ages. Effective leaders in churches, hospitals, corporations, and government agencies are all trained in some fashion. This is something almost impossible for a single church to do alone.
Other denominational benefits not of a spiritual nature include (but are not limited to): tax exemption under the Federal IRS code and greater representation in that tax code, as well as representation to our national government.
The bottom line is the benefits of involvement in the denomination far outweigh any drawbacks. When we are involved, united, and laboring together for the cause of Christ, we get more accomplished. Why run the risk of finding ourselves isolated on an island of ministry without the benefits of a collective impact.
About the Writer: Chris Todd is executive secretary of
the South Carolina State Association of Free Will Baptists: