By Mike Hess
If you’ve been in any kind of relationship, you probably know what it means to drift apart. The phenomenon of social media has brought together people who had been separated by space and time. The question “I wonder whatever happened to so and so?” rarely goes unanswered today.
A lot of factors come into play with people drifting apart: age, different interests or career paths, stages of life, geographical distance, conflicting values, hurts, or disillusionment. Whenever a relationship experiences any kind of distance, it’s important to ask, What drew me to this friendship or relationship in the first place?
Over the past year and a half, I’ve talked to a number of pastors and members of GARBC churches who have indicated their desire to reengage with our fellowship. If you feel the same way, I’d like to point out specific steps you can take to reengage with the GARBC.
Like many Baptist Bulletin readers, I was mentored by GARBC pastors. That’s a big reason I fell in love with this fellowship. Older men took me under their wings and helped me as a pastor, husband, father, and follower of the Savior. If our association is going to thrive, it’s imperative that we embrace a mentoring mindset that passes down, one, our doctrinal commitments and, two, our passion for making disciples through healthy local churches. The points I make in this article are key elements of the GARBC that demonstrate our commitment to our Savior’s mission.
Who are we?
The GARBC is a network of independent, autonomous, local Baptist churches who, as congregations, have voluntarily chosen to lock arms with other churches that rally around the same doctrinal statement. We are not a denomination and require no denominational dues. While every church is independent, we are also interdependent in that we are convinced churches are never better off going it alone. Rather, we believe we will be more effective in making disciples as we work with other doctrinally aligned local churches.
Where did we come from?
Back in the early 1900s German rational thinking began to infiltrate some of America’s most prominent seminaries, and many mainline denominations began a doctrinal shift. These groups embraced a low view of Scripture and a humanistic interpretation of the Bible. One was the Northern Baptist Convention (now the American Baptist Convention). For many years those who embraced Scripture’s inerrancy tried to change the NBC. After years of pleading with their own denomination and trying to change it from within, they realized it was a futile task. In 1932 in Chicago, a group of humble, Scripture-committed, Christ-honoring, visionary men and women, representing 22 local churches, held the first-ever GARBC conference. It was their desire to form a group of churches that locked arms around a doctrinal statement while each church maintained its own independence. They believed this was the best way to make disciples locally and globally.
Where are we headed?
Before you hop on board, it’s important to know where our fellowship is headed—our passion, goals, values, and commitments. The GARBC’s mission is to do the following:
Help Equip and Encourage Local Churches
We are first and foremost a fellowship of local churches. We’re committed to doing everything we can to encourage churches to make and be disciples. We do this by helping with pastoral placement and by providing a dynamic and relevant national conference, soul-care for pastors and wives needing Biblical encouragement, and various training seminars online and at regional conferences. The enemy would love to use a few side issues to derail us from the mission our Savior gave the church. But the GARBC is committed to staying on mission: making disciples through healthy local churches.
Plant and Revitalize Healthy Local Churches
The GARBC is well positioned to offer no-interest loans and grants to churches that need revitalization or want to plant new churches. Nearly $200,000 was given to these endeavors in 2019 alone. On top of that, a number of experienced consultants are helping churches go through the revitalization process. Our hub residency program provides mentoring opportunities through internships in thriving local churches. We believe that thriving churches have a responsibility to plant new churches and help other congregations thrive for God’s glory.
Endorse Qualified Chaplains
Since 1967 the GARBC has been recognized by the US government as an official endorsing agency of chaplains. Our chaplains take the gospel, along with Biblical hope and encouragement, to individuals in many different spheres of life—military, law enforcement, firefighters, first-responders, sports teams, state and national legislators, and prisons. All our endorsed chaplains meet educational requirements and rigid theological qualifications along with an endorsement from their local church.
Resource and Train International Partners
Since the Great Commission is global in its scope, none of us can fulfill it by ourselves. We need each other to reach the world. Regular Baptist International links the GARBC with other Biblical Baptist church associations that align with us doctrinally and share our commitment to the Great Commission and Biblical inerrancy and sufficiency. We can contribute to fulfilling the Great Commission by assisting them with training and resources. Many of our partners (associations) are in developing countries; many of the pastors in those associations serve with no or little church salary and have had limited Bible or ministry training. Nevertheless, they demonstrate a relentless commitment to disciple-making ministry.
RBI is privileged to facilitate international, regional, and country-wide conferences. And GARBC churches are welcome to send their pastors to help with these conferences. In the meantime, international churches need roofs for their buildings; pastors need motorcycles; Christian schools need libraries or computers or buildings; pastors need tuition for further training; orphans need sponsorships. We partner with them when we provide books and Sunday School or VBS curricula through RBP. They translate that material into their own languages as we provide the funds to publish. What we contribute will bring exponential results!
Provide Biblically Sound Discipleship Materials
In a day of doctrinal vagueness, Regular Baptist Press is committed to publishing discipleship materials in lockstep with the GARBC doctrinal statement. RBP does not primarily exist as a publishing business but, rather, as a companion coming alongside local churches to see people Biblically grow and change into the image of Christ for God’s glory. We accomplish this purpose through venues like social media, websites, and blogs, where we Biblically and clearly address cultural issues, as well as through the materials we publish. Our bimonthly publication, the Baptist Bulletin, provides excellent, theologically sound, and relevant articles. We believe your church would be well served by taking advantage of these resources.
Where can you begin?
I realize I just gave you a lot of information to process, but let me encourage you to evaluate the benefits of being engaged with our fellowship of churches.
- Start by doing what you can to attend the 2020 GARBC Conference in Sacramento, California, June 29—July 2. Scholarships are available for those struggling with the financial costs.
- Invest in RBP curriculum for your children, VBS, teens, and adult discipleship programs. You never have to worry about what doctrinal position RBP materials are coming from.
- Invite the directors of Regular Baptist Ministries (e.g., chaplaincy, builders club) to present at your local church. Personally hear from us our passion and heartbeat for what God is doing in the GARBC.
- Finally, consider putting the GARBC general fund in your church’s annual budget. Your financial generosity frees us to invest even more in disciple-making ministry.
This is your fellowship. If you’ve been disengaged over the past several years for whatever reason, I’d love to reconnect with you. Reengage with your fellowship—both locally and nationally. God has given us a stewardship, and we are committed to maximizing every resource to “Make Disciples through Healthy Local Churches.”
Mike Hess serves as national representative of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.