Denominational Interference

I am always encouraged by SBC denominational employees who remember and appreciate the fact that they are servants of the churches. They exude a humble spirit and avoid giving any impression that they think Southern Baptists are accountable to them or in any way under their authority. Such denominational servants can be a blessing to churches and pastors by supplying information and access to resources to help congregations fulfill their callings.

When a denominational employee forgets who serves whom and acts as if local churches are inferior to convention structures or agencies, then that which can potentially be good becomes bad. And when the good goes bad it is the worst. Unfortunately, pastors sometimes must remind some denominational employees that they work for the churches we serve and should comport themselves accordingly.

When a denominational worker forgets this, he can come across as officious, condescending and even dictatorial in his attitude toward a local church. That kind of spirit is not only offensive it is deadly to the kind of cooperation that Southern Baptists are searching for in this post-denominational era.

Last Friday I received a note that tells of the kind of denominational interference that erodes trust and a spirit of cooperation. I am quoting part of this letter with permission from the author and staff member of the local church involved.

I am writing to inform you about something that is taking place here in ______. Today I received a phone call from [a staff member of my church]…. He informed me that he had received a phone call today from a state convention worker who is concerned about our calling of a new senior Pastor. It seems that after learning his name, they did some research and wanted to let us know (as if we did not know already) that, “He is a five point Calvinist” and he “would hurt our evagelistic efforts.”

That state official has been informed that he is not to interfere in the inner workings of this church any further. He has lost credibility with that congregation. He has also contributed to the kind of fear-mongering that plagues too many sectors of the SBC today.

I am grateful that this church saw through his attempt to act like a bishop and impose his (very faulty and prejudiced) views on them. In a polite but firm way, they “put him in his place.” If he stays there, both church and denomination will be better off. If he begins to get bishopric fever again, then he should be required to take a remedial course in Baptist ecclesiology. Hopefully, his fellow denominational employees will remind him of of his place so that other local churches will not have to.

But, if he or any other denominational official seeks to interfere with or disrupt the inner workings of a local church he should be held accontable and reminded that he is the church’s servant and not vice versa.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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