Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Dually Aligned?

Someone recently asked , "Is your church dually aligned?" My immediate thought (left unsaid) was, "Or course not. We are aligned with Christ." OK. I know what he meant: "Is your church affiliated with both the CBF and the SBC?" Not an usual questions but certainly an irrelevant one.

The question is based on a modern paradigm that saw the local church (even if we called it "an autonomous Southern Baptist church") as a local franchise of the national body. Thirty years ago you could walk into any Anglo Baptist church in the south and find people using the same hymnal, using the same literature, supporting the same missions program, and using the same terminology about the faith. Certainly there were variations in worship. We Baptists have always covered the spectrum when it comes to worship, but most of us were using some edition of the Baptist Hymnal. One value of this approach was that you always felt "at home" in church, whether you were in Texas or Alabama.

This "McDonald's" approach is largely irrelevant today. I would like to think this has happened because we cleaned up our theology, but we know that is not true. The changes in denominationalism have brought us the opportunity to embrace a more biblically based theology of the church. This is the idea that the church is the Missio Deo, the mission of God in the world. This approach calls upon each local expression of the Body of Christ to be culturally relevant, ministering to the needs of those in their community and linking with other expressions of the Body to work for the Kingdom of God.

This means that the local church is not only autonomous; it is also responsible. The church must make its own decisions about worship, spiritual formation, leadership, missions, and ministry. The church must discover resources and partners to help it carry out its God-given mission, a mission unique to it. The answers don't come prepackaged from Nashville, Atlanta, Dallas, or Grand Rapids! At the same time, resources may be found in all of these places and many others.

This new paradigm means that the church is at the center of a web. There are no longer just one or two strands linking the church to ministry partners; there are dozens! We also find churches linking with one another in unique and creative ways in their Kingdom work (often with Christians whose theology may be a bit diffent).

So, is your church dually aligned? I hope not.


Dr. Danny Chisholm said...

I hear what you're saying about being "aligned with Christ" but the denominational moniker of SBC/CBF is pretty significant. The idea of being "dually aligned" seems to be an attempt to satisfy a variety of people in the local church. It will be interesting to see how many churches move from dual alignment to singular alignment in the next 10 years and how many churches who are singly aligned (with SBC) move to a dual alignment. I'm sure many church members would claim to be aligned with Christ, but unfortunately more needs to be said to express one's particular brand of Baptist. Not everyone who is Christian agrees upon how that faith is lived out and applied through the church.

Ircel said...

Rather than single or dual alignment, I think we will see churches that have multiple partnerships. Will they be Baptist churches? Only if we continue to assure people that being Baptist has nothing to do with external relationships but has everything to do with their theological commitment. There were Baptists long before there were conventions (although Baptist churches have always sought ways to relate to one another).

Bill Shiell said...

In Texas, "Dually Aligned," meant a church that gave to the BGCT and Southern Baptists of Texas. Maybe it's time for an oil change instead of an alignment.