Where Baptist World Mission Stands
Baptist World Mission (BWM) was born in a battle. The original founders of the Mission were leaders in the Conservative Baptist movement, who had opposed the liberalism of the old Northern Baptist Convention and had organized a separate fellowship of churches as well as their own missionary societies. As the Conservative Baptist movement grew, however, many of its leaders began to embrace a compromising position which came to be known as “new evangelicalism.” This philosophy began to be particularly evident in both the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society and the Conservative Baptist Home Mission Society. Strong Bible-believing leaders within the movement saw the need for establishing a mission board not contaminated with this influence. Thus the “World Conservative Baptist Mission” was born, which is now called “Baptist World Mission,” and has continued as a strong champion for fundamentalism.
The Mission has a complete doctrinal statement which positionalizes it on the major areas of theology. However, there are certain key issues about which questions are often asked, and it is to these issues we speak in this document.
WHERE WE STAND ON DOCTRINE
A fundamentalist is one who accepts the biblical doctrines commonly known as the “fundamentals,” such doctrines as biblical inspiration, the total sinfulness of man, salvation by grace alone, the complete deity of Jesus Christ, His bodily resurrection from the dead, His literal return, and other truths historically held by orthodox Christians. The Mission is opposed to modern religious liberalism, to neo-orthodoxy, and to other heretical views under whatever name they may appear.
On the Inerrancy of Scripture
Total allegiance is given to the doctrine of the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture. The human authors of Scripture were superintended in their work by the Holy Spirit who caused them to produce a text without error. We thus speak of the Bible as being both inerrant and infallible. Inerrancy is ascribed only to the original text written by the inspired authors.
Divine inspiration was such that nothing God intended to be included was omitted from the Bible. Every word in the original text is the very word God desired, though He did not violate the human personality of the writers in producing it.
In recent year, some claiming to be evangelicals have advanced the idea the Bible is inspired when It speaks on doctrinal matters, but contains errors in areas such as geography, history, and science. This position is heartily rejected.
One of the conflicts causing the formation of Baptist World Mission centered on premillennialism. Some Conservative Baptist leaders, while themselves professing to be of premillennial persuasion, were not willing to affirm premillennialism in their official doctrinal statements, thus making it a test of fellowship within the movement. Founders of BWM, on the other hand, believed premillennialism was vital to a biblical position.
Premillennialism is that system of thought which confesses a literal reign of Christ on Earth for one thousand years following His glorious, visible return to Earth. Premillennialists believe during this Kingdom period the promises given in the Old Testament to the nation Israel will be literally fulfilled. They will be restored to their land, and Christ, their Messiah, will rule over them.
Postmillennialists teach Christ’s Kingdom will be inaugurated through the efforts of the church. After the Kingdom has been established, Christ will return. This system has experienced a revival in recent years through the writings of the “reconstructionists” or proponents of “dominion theology.” Postmillennialism is not supported by Scripture.
Amillennialists deny any literal and future reign of Christ on Earth and, while differing somewhat in their interpretations, generally see the promises of a kingdom fulfilled in the present-day church. This identification of the Church and Israel is contrary to the plain teaching of Scripture.
Dispensationalists affirm certain basic truths.
- All Scripture, including the prophetic portions, should be interpreted literally, that is according to the grammatical-historical principles of biblical interpretation.
- There have been various stewardships (dispensations) during the history of man. It was man’s responsibility to respond obediently to these different revelations of God’s will.
- God has an eternal purpose for the nation Israel.
- The Church and Israel are separate entities with separate divinely-appointed programs.
- There will be a future kingdom on Earth followed by the eternal state.
Dispensationalists reject that system known as “covenant theology.” Covenant theologians equate Israel and the Church, spiritualize many of the prophetic portions of Scripture, and affirm that infants should be “baptized” (sprinkled) because infants were circumcised under the Old Testament covenant.
Dispensationalists also believe in the “blessed hope,” the biblical teaching of the pretribulation rapture of the Church. Baptist World Mission interprets the term “pretribulational” as referring to a rapture of the Church prior to the beginning of the seventieth week of Daniel. Christ will catch His Bride away before the inception of that awful time of judgment.
On the Gifts of the Spirit
In fairly recent years, the Charismatic movement has been spawned and has become prominent upon the ecclesiastical scene. Most charismatics teach all of the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament are operative today. They especially emphasize the use of certain miraculous gifts such as speaking in tongues and healing. Some also claim to have the gift of prophecy by which they receive extra-biblical revelation.
The Charismatic movement has embraced and is propagating heretical errors and is having a very disruptive impact upon the Christian world. Their contention that the miraculous sign gifts are still evident today is contrary not only to the teaching of Scripture but also to the historical position of Bible-believing Christians through the centuries. The gift of tongues, for example, was a “sign gift,” that is, a gift divinely-bestowed and intended as a sign to the nation Israel authenticating the message and ministry of the apostles. The gift of tongues was never a sign of the baptism nor filling of the Spirit.
On the Baptist Distinctives
Baptist World Mission does not feel any embarrassment about the name “Baptist.” This name, understood and interpreted in the light of its historical context, denotes a people who have held tenaciously to great biblical truths when many of these truths were disdained and those who held them were vilified and persecuted. We do not embrace these doctrines because they were taught by our Baptist forefathers, but because they are taught in holy Scripture. While recognizing there are people calling themselves “Baptists” who are unfaithful to the historic doctrinal position associated with the name, we are unwilling to give up a designation which has both historic and biblical significance.
The biblical doctrines when grouped together are referred to as the “Baptist Distinctives” and are as follows:
- Sole authority of Scripture
- Necessity of a regenerate church membership
- Autonomy of the local church
- Soul liberty of the individual
- Priesthood of the believer
- Two ordinances of the church
- Two officers of the church: pastor and deacon
- Separation of Church and State
Obviously Baptists do not believe these principles constitute the sum total of divine revelation. They are, however, precious truths which have distinguished those people called “Baptists” for centuries and are still worthy of our joyful adherence.
On The Local Church
The word “church” is used in two ways in the New Testament. It sometimes speaks of the universal Body of Christ in which all believers are placed at their conversion. Most of its usages, however, refer to the local congregation, the visible body of believers gathered in a particular place for the worship of God, the observance of the ordinances, the evangelism of the world, and the teaching and preaching of God’s Word. BWM’s doctrinal statement declares we believe the local church to be the “center of God’s program for this age.” We believe that every Christian should be an active member of a biblical church.
A person must be a born-again Christian in order to qualify for church membership. There are only two ordinances committed to the local church: baptism and the Lord’s table. Baptism is the single immersion of a genuine believer in Christ and is required for church membership.
Each church is responsible to its Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. No organization or group of individuals can act for a local church nor impose their will upon it. Each church is free to follow the direction of the Spirit of God in supporting missionaries, calling pastors, and making other decisions relating to its work.
WHERE WE STAND ON BIBLICAL METHODOLOGY
Methodology is a reflection of theology. What we believe is demonstrated in what we do. What we do and how we do it is important to God. The Mission does not espouse the view that “if it works, it is good.” Something may work well, but not be biblical. Our first question must always be, “Is this program, method, or action in line with the Word of God?”
The Priority of Evangelism
In some quarters much is made of the importance of “social awareness” on the part of the Christian and the local church. We are told it is mandatory for believers to have a “social agenda,” i.e., a program for alleviating some of the social ills of this world. An examination of the New Testament, however, illustrates abundantly the early church did not feel it their responsibility to try to change society, but to preach the Gospel, which changes individuals.
Baptist World Mission from its inception has emphasized the priority of evangelism. We expect missionary candidates to be practicing evangelism here at home long before they actually arrive on the field. The Gospel needs to be presented personally to those with whom we have contact. The Gospel needs to be proclaimed in public gatherings as there is opportunity.
Many mission agencies have been caught up in “institutionalism.” They pour thousands of dollars into buildings, schools, hospitals and other institutions, while neglecting the primary work of evangelism. We believe the main emphasis of a missionary should be upon winning people to Christ, baptizing them, and teaching them the Scriptures. Other efforts may be good in themselves, but may not constitute the best and highest use of a missionary’s time.
The Necessity of Church Planting
We believe the central goal of missionary work is the planting of local churches. There is no other substitute for this. Whatever the missionary does should be with the aim of starting a new church or nurturing one already in existence.
Church planting is not easy. The missionary labors in an alien culture which is controlled by Satan, whose government and citizens often are not friendly to the Gospel. The missionary is tempted to become sidetracked and substitute other activities in the place of church planting. Some want to specialize in a particular effort which they enjoy but does not have any direct connection with the task of church planting. Such temptations should be resisted. All missionary tasks must be measured in the light of the goal: “Does this contribute in some meaningful way to the establishment or nurture of a New Testament church?”
Our goal as a Mission is to produce self-sustaining and self-propagating churches. In other words, churches standing on their own without being propped up by missionary dollars or led by missionary pastors. We desire churches pastored by national believers who are well-trained in the Scriptures. These churches should be financially supported by their own members. In some cultures this is a challenging and difficult task, but it is nevertheless a goal which is mandated in Scripture. To produce church leaders indigenous to the country requires diligent training in programs established for that purpose. One of the missionary’s chief concerns should be the development of godly and competent leadership.
WHERE WE STAND ON BIBLICAL SEPARATION
Some years ago the Board of Trustees of Baptist World Mission adopted the following resolution on biblical separation:
“WHEREAS there is a shift away from a biblical position on separation in the fundamentalist world today;
And WHEREAS this shift is further apparent in the cooperation of those who call themselves fundamentalists with men who have remained in cooperation with those within the Southern Baptist Convention;
And WHEREAS there is a willingness of those who hold to biblical inerrancy to remain in apostate denominations and conventions;
And WHEREAS there is the cooperation of fundamentalists with charismatics and new evangelicals in school endeavors and the broadcast media;
WHEREFORE, be it resolved that the Board of Baptist World Mission, in annual meeting, October 27, 1982, recognizing the scriptural command to speak the truth and to speak it in love, reaffirms its commitment to the biblical commands to separation from apostasy and from brethren who walk contrary to the commands of Scripture.”
This resolution flows out of scriptural principles and complements the statement on separation found in the Constitution of the Mission which reads in part as follows:
“We believe in . . . the separation of the local church from all affiliation and fellowship with those who deny the verities of the Christian faith and from those who are content to walk in fellowship with unbelief and inclusivism.”
It should be noted the Mission believes biblical separation includes more than separation from outright apostates. It also includes a refusal to work with true believers who compromise biblical principles in the name of Christian fellowship. Some speak of these principles as “first” and “second” degree separation, but the Bible does not use this terminology.
The foundation of biblical separation is the holiness of God. “Be ye holy for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). Separation from false doctrine is simply obedience to this command. Our holy God demands holy teaching. To be separated is to “touch not the unclean thing” (2 Cor. 6:17). Obedience in the matter of separated fellowship and work is part of “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).
The rise and proliferation of new evangelicalism has made the task of the separatist even more difficult. These evangelical brethren believe many of the same doctrines as fundamentalists. They profess adherence to the authority of Scripture (though some of them deny the historic doctrine of biblical inspiration).
They are inclusive in their thinking and ecumenical in their practice. New evangelical fellowships may include a broad spectrum of people from independent Charismatics on the one hand to traditional Roman Catholics on the other. What are called “denominational distinctives” are downplayed in the interest of fostering fellowship among many diverse groups.
Many years ago under the leadership of Billy Graham, the philosophy of “ecumenical evangelism” was born. Evangelistic crusades were organized in metropolitan areas. No doctrinal restrictions were placed upon participants. Leading liberal preachers and their churches were enlisted in the campaigns and the evangelist carefully avoided any reference to their unbelief. With the defense “souls are being saved,” an unequal yoke was created. This devastating practice has continued to this day and has caused great confusion among God’s people The ancient prophet’s inquiry is certainly one to be pondered now: “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?” (2 Chron. 19:2).
Missionaries are often put under pressure to cooperate with various ecumenical evangelistic efforts in the countries where they work. The philosophy is promoted which says, “We can do it better together than we can apart.” Faithful missionaries standing against this philosophy are often vilified as “uncooperative” and “divisive.” Cooperative evangelism on the mission field, however, is no more scriptural and productive than it is at home.
Personal separation is also a corollary of biblical holiness. The believer is commanded in Scripture to be separated from the sinful practices of this world. We are not to be “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2). We are to have “no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11). We are to repudiate the world with its lusts (1 Jn 2:15-16). In this age of loose living, some feel emphasizing personal godliness is “legalistic.” To seek, however, to be godly in personal living is not legalism but holy obedience.
It is one thing to take a stand and quite another to maintain it. Numerous organizations and churches at one time took a firm stand for God, but have long since drifted into a looser and accommodating position. Since its inception Baptist World Mission has continued to stand without drift or compromise. The Mission takes seriously the solemn charge of God: “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand . . . Stand therefore . . .” (Eph. 6:13-14).