One of the highlights for me of this year’s SBC annual meeting was the opportunity I had on the Sunday morning before the convention to worship at both FBC Farmersville with Bart Barber and Cornerstone Baptist Church with Dwight McKissic. Bart and Dwight were gracious hosts, and their congregations were both very welcoming. It was a joy to be able to worship in both churches.
As I think about those visits, I am reminded of the inter-congregational relationships that we see throughout the New Testament. A great deal of the Apostle Paul’s ministry was devoted to visiting and writing letters to other churches. Sometime these were churches he had planted. Other times these were churches he had merely heard about from others.
Consider some of the verses from Paul’s letters that demonstrate what I am talking about.
And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
1 Corinthians 16:19
The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.
Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you.
Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.
It is clear that not only did Paul strengthen the churches with his visits, he was strengthened and encouraged by the fellow believers with whom he visited. His letters were intended to instruct the churches but also to encourage and build up the churches.
While his ministry as an apostle was certainly unique in some ways, I am reminded that it was not just Paul who valued the relationships that he had with other churches. In fact, several of his letters conclude with greetings from the Christians where he currently was to the Christians to whom he was writing. There seems to have been a sense in the first first century that they were all in it together for the sake of the gospel. They understood that they had brothers and sisters in Christ in other places throughout the region, and they valued those relationships.
I believe this is one of the beautiful things about the Southern Baptist Convention. Our churches are in different places throughout the country. We have different styles of worship. Some of our churches are more traditional, while other of our churches are more casual. Yet we all come together for the sake of the gospel. We partner together to get the gospel to those who have never heard that there is salvation in no other name but the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I was encouraged to see and worship with my brothers and sisters in Christ in Farmersville and Arlington, Texas. I can only hope that those churches were also encouraged by the visits of some of their fellow Southern Baptists. May our sense of togetherness continue to grow across congregations and geographical boundaries, and may the gospel continue to go forth through the ministry of each of our churches.