There are many good Southern Baptists unwilling to work with those who think differently than they do. The great thing about Associations is we come together because we are stronger together than we are alone. The design of the SBC is to choose to work together in our differences to see God most glorified. Some believe the Bible must be KJV, others believe deacons may not be divorced, some believe we can only use Lifeway curriculum, and still others believe that you must capitalize the word God when referring to God or you are talking about something other than God, you know, just a god.
So who can we work with? And under what circumstances can we work or not work together? I believe it is as much about semantics as the goal.
There are some who assert we cannot, and should not, work with those who do not believe exactly the way we do. Ordination, marriage, and gender are some of those sticky issues. Below your LMS will shed light on the direction of the Association regarding who we can work with based on my years of engaging in multiple Kingdom related partnerships. In my six years of experience working in stateside churches as well as spanning 15 years overseas working together with conservatives, liberals, calvinists, methodists, pentecostals, independents, and even unbelievers to plant or support churches, I have come to the following conclusions regarding who we can and should work with in our Association at different levels.
First, we must agree that there is a difference between meeting with, participating with, joining together, and being together in one mind.
I am willing to MEET WITH just about any religious group. If the Mayor or the Governor asks me to meet with some ministers as part of a council of religious leaders that included Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and other faiths I would more than likely meet with the group at least once. I have little problem getting together in this way because it is not my organization. I am not affirming the beliefs of any specific group in any way. In some cases meeting with others actually serves as an open door for the gospel.
Those I am willing to PARTICIPATE WITH is a slightly smaller group. If I am part of an SBC Disaster Relief team and a Muslim Red Crescent group shows up. I have few reservations about participating with them to help meet human needs, especially in times of crisis and disaster. I am even willing to coordinate our efforts to maximize the help we can provide. Once again this does not require me to affirm anything.
When one takes the step to JOIN TOGETHER with others he or she crosses an unseen line. By joining together I officially and formally connect in the same organization and at some level say I affirm these people as brothers and sisters in Christ. The best example of this to me is our local Ministerial Alliance. I believe our Associational churches can join together with AoG churches, Missionary and National Baptists, EV Free, Lutheran or even some Catholic churches without compromising our Baptist beliefs because we share a common core set of orthodox Christian fundamentals. HOWEVER, if a church affirms gay marriage, homosexual pastors, adultery in a congregation or with a pastor, accepts any kind of perversion like pedophilia, advocates FOR abortion, or believes that salvation is not by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone then I would have to withdraw as an official part of that organization of churches because I do not want to identify my Association as affirming unbiblical stands. Take careful note; Women pastors, alcohol use, differences in church polity are non-salvific issues and thus while I might not agree with them, I do not cancel the relationship or alliance.
BEING TOGETHER IN ONE MIND is what is necessary to plant a church. We do not have to be exactly the same in our beliefs and practices. But we need to be very close; Baptist Faith & Message 2000 type close. Like a marriage we do not have to believe exactly the same things, but in fact our differences make us better. Our differences help us to be stronger, sharper, and more approved. But to plant a church, and thus be of one mind, we need to affirm and stand on the Bible as well as the B, F & M 2000.
As we go forward as an Association. I am convinced we must be together in one mind. We need to encourage each other and lift each other in prayer. We need to support each other and have the grace toward each other Christ showed each of us on the cross. Joining together is good, but if we plan on planting churches and expanding the Gospel in North Central Florida, we need to be of the same mind, a passionate declaration of our glorious Christ.