As the pastor of our church, I’m sometimes asked if our church is formally associated with any kind of ecclesiastical group. The answer is no, we are not. Our church began in 1838 and joined the Illinois Baptist General Association in 1845. Our association was lumped into the Northern Baptist Convention (NBC) in 1908. Due to liberalism, we left the NBC in 1947 to join the Conservative Baptist Association (CBA) and then left the CBA in 1968 for similar reasons. We joined the Association of Independent Baptist Churches of Illinois (AIBCI) in 1969 and left in 2004 due to doctrinal differences. We remain free of any formal associations today.
Sometimes folks try to figure out our church’s connections based on my educational degrees. I attended Bob Jones University, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. This array of degrees can scare away conservatives who do not like that Southeastern belongs to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), or people occasionally like that I have an SBC degree in spite of the other two. However, folks come to realize pretty quickly that I am not all things SBC. I went to Southeastern because (1) it had a “modified residency” Ph. D. program that did not require me to move, (2) it had a conservative theologian who was heading my program at the time, and (3) I wanted an accredited terminal degree. Like many pastors I know, this experience allowed me to learn from the best of a group’s scholars without committing myself on a deeper level or making formal ties along the way.
There are usually two ways to discover the relationships that our church and our pastors have with the greater body of Christ. First, we support a number of missionaries that sister churches support as well. We partner with these churches to the degree that we mutually support these missionaries. Of course, we no longer post these missionaries’ names on our website for security reasons, so that’s not so easy to figure out. The second way, however, is more helpful—look at the speakers we have had at our annual pastor’s conference, and that will tell you who we are glad to associate with on a conference level.
Personally, I am a member of the Foundations Baptist Fellowship International. I have several friends in the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. I write a blog post for G3 Ministries just about every month. I teach as adjunct faculty for Bob Jones University, and I try to get to E3 whenever I can, an annual pastor’s conference hosted by Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. I suppose there would be pastors or churches connected to any of the above that are not quite like our pastors or our church, but these differences are typically minimal. I am grateful for the many friends and connections in the body of Christ that God has given to us.