We are a cooperative. A cooperative is a group of individuals, allowed to maintain their individuality, who choose to cooperate around a common goal. The cooperative works as long as individuality is the accepted standard and the goal suits each individual.
The source of our individuality is the doctrine of “Priesthood of Every Believer.” Many will say that the SBC is a bottom up organization with the local church as its base and cooperative efforts then exist at associational, state and national convention levels. This is not quite accurate. The association is the second level of cooperation. The local church is the first level of cooperation among a base of individual believers. The Autonomy of the Local Church stems from the doctrine of Priesthood of Every Believer. The entire bottom up structure stems from this vital Baptist doctrine and distinctive.
Individuality is the source of our cooperation and when it is hammered together with a common goal we become a powerfully focused organization that is tremendously effective.
The goal of our cooperation is missions. The entirety of our cooperation was formed, and now exists, to spread the Gospel to everyone who stands in need.
Therefore, two things must be assured for the health of the SBC.
1. Uniformity must be fought at every turn. If people are not allowed to be themselves, they will no longer participate, even if they share a common goal. This is part of why we see the attrition of younger leaders and lay people within the SBC. It is why the SBC has its eyes on the Younger Leader movement. Those with vision know that if they lose this crowd of individualists, they will lose the future, as YL’s take their churches and the offerings that go with them, out of the Convention.
2. The Goal of Missions must be guarded at all costs. When our primary mission agencies are shaken the way NAMB and the IMB have been this year, all eyes must focus intently on them. If these two entities fail to effectively press toward our common goal, they will lose the trust of the individuals who sustain them. The loss of trust will bring about the same result as a loss of individualism. People will leave to go it alone.
The SBC is at stake. Great leaders from years gone by and new leaders must work together right now for the survival of this cooperative – if they believe that our cooperation is still as vital to the obtaining of our goal: Reaching the World for Christ.