“In days gone by, the independent Baptist movement was like a pie,” observed Steve Pettit, president of Bob Jones University. “Each segment had its own unique identity, and some were closer ideologically than others—but there was enough agreement between where everyone met at the center.” Pettit contrasted that with the circumstances of our current day, likening it to every organization’s pie piece occupying its own plate.
Pettit’s observation was made at The Gospel Proclaimed, an event hosted in March by Tri-City Baptist Church and International Baptist College and Seminary in Chandler, Arizona. While his assessment may have been an accurate description of the current state of affairs among the various associations, fellowships, and unaffiliated congregations, it was also apparent that the conference was providing those who attended the opportunity to imagine the benefits of unifying those pieces back in the pan.
Several Regular Baptist pastors and leaders were in attendance and expressed hope at the prospects the event seemed to display. Dan Whitcher, field representative with Baptist Mid-Missions, was visiting the IBC&S campus for the first time and was delighted at the opportunity to interact with the student body. “It’s exciting to expand awareness of like-minded people from different places and varied backgrounds,” said Whitcher.
John Sauser of Baptist Church Planters agreed. “I’m rejoicing, seeing God’s hand at work bringing these different streams together in this setting. There’s a sense that this mutual awareness and fellowship around God’s truth provides strength to advance His agenda for our various churches.” The encouragement seems especially timely, remarked Sauser, “as we consider the decline of society around us, and the increasing resistance that seems to be coming.”
“As fundamentalists, we tend to be suspicious by nature. Unfortunately, we are often suspicious of each other,” observed Pastor Russ Boone of Bible Baptist Church, Santa Monica, California. “I think that meetings like this are needed to help relieve that suspicion of each other.” David Swope, pastor of Calvary Baptist in Mesa, Arizona, agreed. Swope stated that while there were some differences in methods and emphases among the ministries represented, “I’m rejoicing in the obvious gospel-centeredness that has drawn us here together.”
Speakers such as Marty Marriott of Maranatha Baptist University, Gary Anderson of BMM, Matt Morrell of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Jim Tillotson of Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary, and Kevin Schaal of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International drew attention to commonalties on matters such as congregational governance, salvation-centered missions, dispensational hermeneutics, and Baptist convictions on ordinances and offices. The theme song of the conference, an original composition penned for the event by Chris Anderson, summarized well the heartbeat of those who participated:
We’re one in Christ, bought with His blood—
The holy church, called out to God.
The power that made our Savior rise
Has likewise formed the church of Christ.
Greg Linscott is pastor of First Baptist Church, Marshall, Minn. Conference main sessions may be accessed by visiting bit.ly/tgp16.
Photo credit: Vicki L. Tayloe, Victoria Designs Photography. © 2016. All rights reserved. Used by permission.