Since planting the church ten years ago I have had the somewhat awkward conversation many, many times. I am asked, “Are you non-denominational?” Well, that is an interesting question that is difficult to answer. My response is that our church is actually made up of people from all kinds of religious backgrounds and traditions, and that we as a church partners with multiple organizations for the cause of the Great Commission. This includes our relationship with Acts 29 and with Great Commission Baptists, also known as Southern Baptists.
Here in the Midwest there can be a certain stigma as to what it means to be Southern Baptist. Way too often people associate being SBC with a certain style of church that includes an organ on Sundays, a Republican rally effort near election time, and a solidarity against the moral evils of our culture which has at the top of the list the demon alcohol. So, if you were to ask if we are that type of church I would respond whole-heartedly, “absolutely not.” We are for the Gospel, and don’t want to be defined by what we are against. We are for worship of Jesus as King and diversity in political views. And we are for the label of follower of Jesus and people on mission for His cause and don’t really want to be labeled as much more than that. The sad thing is that the version of being SBC on the church level has often clouded what the primary purpose for which the denomination started, the cause of the Great Commission.
In 1925, Southern Baptists initiated a giving mechanism called the Cooperative Program. It was a mechanism created to fulfill a vision to take the Gospel to the world and train leaders to do so. The idea was fairly simple, people in churches give their tithes and offerings. Churches should do the same. If a church would give a percentage of their receipts to the Cooperative Program it would allow Southern Baptists the ability to send missionaries like crazy. And they have. With around 5,000 career missionaries overseas and tens of thousands of partners, and with a myriad of church planters and other mission personnel here in the US, the SBC has been the most strategic and effective mission organization for the task of reaching the world for the Gospel. And the wonderful thing is that people called to give their lives to mission are taken care of without ever having to come back and raise their own support. The vast majority of funds given to the Cooperative Program fund three things. First is the International Mission Board who sends missionaries all over the world, with a focus on unreached peoples. Second is the North American Mission Board which focuses on church planting and mission in the United States and Canada, including efforts through SBC Disaster Relief. Third is the Southern Baptist Seminaries whose job it is to prepare the next generation of pastors, missionaries, and leaders theologically for their ministry.
At the end of my college years, as I was about to enter my calling to ministry I had a season of struggle about being a part of the SBC. I had grown up in “those type” of churches, and had grown a little frustrated with some of the values they lived and their way of doing business. I found much from Scripture to criticize, and most of it rightfully so. But it was the commitment to the Cooperative Program that pulled me back. I valued the relationship with a denomination that, on the highest levels understood the urgency of mission and the need to be fully committed to sending people to the world. It was this that kept me involved in SBC churches, and it is this that has kept Genesis Church as a partner in the Cooperative Program. We, as a church, give a percentage of our regular offerings through the CP as a partnership for the task of the Great Commission.
Nowhere has the beauty of this partnership been on display than ten years ago with the repercussions of Hurricane Katrina. Much is being written this week about that devastating storm and the aftermath. But very little is being said about the most effective and impactful, boots on the ground group. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (read about those efforts here) arrived in New Orleans before the government got there, and sent over 21,000 volunteers, assisting in the cleanup of over 17,000 properties and serving more than 13 million meals. Another 26,000 volunteers flooded the areas impacted over the next few years rebuilding homes, and caring for needs of those displaced. Here is the point, I was not able to go to Katrina, but I was able to be there with our church by being partners with a Gospel organization that went by the masses. In fact, few know this, but SBC Disaster Relief is the second largest disaster care organization in the world, trailing only the Red Cross, and to be honest, not by much.
So, when I am asked that question, you know the one about whether we are non-denominational, I do answer it carefully. I don’t want newcomers and those outside of the faith to run off because of some experience with a fundamentalist church or a stigma they have received. But I am not ashamed of the reality that one of our partners is the SBC and that we give through the Cooperative Program. In fact, I know that this is one of the key ways we as a church are a part of the Great Commission and the call to make an impact all over the world.