Back to the Future: How Dead Baptists Teach Churches to Stay Alive

Transcript:

I want to say a little bit, I want to introduce myself. I am Jeff Robinson. I serve as pastor of Christ Fellowship Church of Louisville, here in Louisville. It's about 10 minutes from here. We are in Middletown. I want you guys to know about Louisville, but I am in Middletown, Kentucky, where it's actually just a suburb of Louisville, so we're about 10 minutes from here. I actually live about five minutes from here, so this is the shortest distance I've ever driven to a speaking engagement, which was great. I could stay home and hone my presentation as much as I possibly can.

I'm also a senior editor for the Gospel Coalition. So any of you guys that read the Gospel Coalition, hope we try to help ... One of my missions is to try to help pastors with providing gospel center resources for pastors and so we're not 99 marks, those are friends of ours, but we try to provide lots of good material for pastors. I've been with them for three years I guess, three and a half years or so as senior editor.

Also teach some at Southern Seminary. Teach church history so that's why I'm here to talk about dead people today. I know I can see one of the firsts things I do when I teach church history is I literally do a lecture, one full lecture on why you should view this as the most important class you'll take in seminary. Church history, that's kind of an audacious thesis I realize but I'm trying to get them to buy into the fact that church history is very important. And most of my classes as much historical theology as anything else so I would say when you get history you kind of get everything. That's the thesis, I will not give that lecture today. But that's my thesis, you got what students pay lots of hard earned money to receive in the semester. 

I do want to open in scripture and I want to read 1 Timothy 4. Some words of advice Paul gives to Timothy, which are really apropos to what I'm speaking on today. Speaking of Associations, how churches seek to fellowship with one another, to hold one another accountable, so I think is an apt text, then I want to pray for us. Then we'll start.

"If you put these things before the brothers - " begin in verse six, "If you put these things before the brothers, you'll be a good servant of Christ Jesus being trained in the words of faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths rather train yourself for godliness. For our bodily training is of some value, godliness is a value in every way. As it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and stride because we have our hopes set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct and love and faith in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that you have, which was given to you by prophesy when the counsel of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, devote yourselves to them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching, persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your heres." Let's pray. 

Father I praise you and thank you for what you've done. Down through the ages, that you have kept your promise that I will build my church in the gates of hell and overcome it. And Father, the pages of church history tell that story, of a sovereign God and a powerful gospel. Subduing wicked hearts, bringing sinful men who were once your enemies to your table. Father I pray today that this would be edifying and encouraging as we talk about how Baptists have associated with one another in the past and done things well and done things not so well. Father we pray that you give us grace, that you instruct us now and encourage us. We pray all this in the strong name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

So how can a bunch of dead Baptists help us bring life to us today in the church? I hope in many ways to try and answer this today, but we can really get one illustration, one particular example. But I want to open in England, where in 1689 various circumstances brought a group of Calvinistic Baptist Churches together there for the first national assembly, 1689. The parliament of Charles II had little toleration for puritanism and persecution grew in intensity for about three decades leading up to 1689. As illustration the Petty France Calvinistic Baptist church, a particular Baptist as they were called, meaning they held to particular tone, not that they were particular about everything. Though they could be very particular about things, especially doctrine as we will see and I think that's often a good thing. But this church, the Petty France Baptist Church in London was attacked group of soldiers who, "Came to Petty France full of rage and violence, with their swords drawn. They wounded some and struck others, broke down the gallery and made spoil." So it wasn't easy to be a Baptist during this time in England.

And so Baptists needed each other, as did all evangelicals yet they ... Even evangelicals were to some degree at war with one another. Hyper-Calvinism, which denied the general call to gospel, denied what we call the promiscuous preaching of the gospel, was on the rise, it had a very chilling effect on a lot of the churches at the time, as you might imagine, no evangelism because the preachers of Hyper-Calvinism said, "We must discern whether or not we're let before we'll ever present the gospel. Discern whether or not our congregation is let or people are let before we could demand that they repent to believe in Christ." So you can imagine what kind of effect this would have. The Quakers were very active at this time, led by George Fox. They urged men and women to reject doctrinal standards, reject theology in favor of the light within. Go with the light within, a very subjectivist kind of approach to religion. And even one high profile pastor in London rejected Calvinistic doctrine in favor of views that bordered on Pelagianism and some [inaudible 00:06:46].

So it was a very fluid time in Baptist history in England. And so this lead particular Baptist churches to call a national assembly and frame a new confession of faith in 1689 that would refute accusations of heresy that had been lodged against them by Anglicans in particular, the state church in England. The [Araspian 00:07:07] church in England had accused them of not being in step with Evangelicals, not holding to biblical religion. And so they called this assembly to frame a confession of faith that would show that they believed the doctrines that simply pull at the heart of what they considered Evangelical religion. And so the particular Baptists of [inaudible 00:07:27] went to this confession of faith to show their solidarity with these other Evangelicals. They used the Westminster confession and the Savoy declaration. The Westminster confession was the doctrinal standard Presbyterians, the Savoy declaration was the doctrinal standards of the congregationalist. So they kind of wed those together and revised these articles on Ecclesiology, made them Baptist, or now we'd call credo-baptist.

And so they framed the second London confession, the Baptist confession of April 1689, which has had a seismic impact on all the confessions of faith, even the Baptist faith in message 2000, I would argue today. It's kind of a distance cousin to the second London Confession. Now I realize if you think about Southern Baptist life, that's a very controversial statement. You kind of have an old guard in saying we descended from the other Baptists, we had nothing to do with that, I would argue that is wrong but that's another discussion for another time. 

But Elder William Collins of the Petty French church is thought to written the confession. He said, "We put this confession forth by the Elders and Brethren of many congregations of Christians baptized upon profession of their faith in London and the country. So the framer stated their purpose as showing our hearty agreement with them, - " the Presbyterian and the Congregationalist, "- in that wholesome protestant doctrine with which so clear evidence the scriptures have asserted. " The Anglicans were claiming that it was heretics. In fact one of the more strident opponents of baptists said, "They pollute London rivers with their filthy washing." There was all these pamphlet wars at the time, you could go back ... 

You wanna spend a day, go to EEOB, English ... What does EOB stand for? I totally forgot. But it's [inaudible 00:09:09] English books online. You can find these pamphlets that have been reprinted, that are out there for free. They were, let's put it this way, they weren't trying to win friendsanifulants people the way they went about their discussions of these things, very different than today. They weren't very nice about it so they can be quite amusing. 

To slap leather with these particular Baptist, and particularly the Anglicans, was no small task during this time. There were a lot of ... more than 100 churches were represented at the meetings. They adopted the confession signed by men like Benjamin Keach, who you may of heard of, a very famous Baptist theologian who held a baptistic covenant of theology. William Kiffin, Hercules Collins, wouldn't you love to have the name Hercules Collins, I like that. One of my friends, Steve Weaver, has written a book about Hercules Collins. That might be my favorite name in Baptist history, Hercules. 

The reason I begin in London and not America, I'm gonna move to America here in a second, is because I think this is probably the best example of Baptist Associationalism in action. A kind of Associationalism that I see it work in networks like Sojourn Network, and X29, and other places, but I think is a healthy way for us to associate as churches. Kind of a loose confederation of churches bound by doctrine. I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself. 

Come to America in 1707, this is the illustration. I want to spend all of our time on the fist baptist Association in America, the Philadelphia Association. And we'll see how that's tied to the second line of confession here in a moment. The five churches in America between 1688 and 1703 banned together, again to meat together, and formed an Association. This is a organic and informal kind of Association. 1707, five churches. Each member would send delegates to an annual meeting, usually elders or representatives in the congregation, each October. This sounds familiar, this is a little bit like the Southern Baptist Convention, this is the same principal that drive the SBC. If you have been to the annual meeting, perhaps you've been. If you're a pastor, you've certainly sent a delegate from your church, a messenger from your church. This is the thinking behind it. 

Over the nest hundred years though, from 1707 to 1807, the Philadelphia Association was instrumental planning and helping hundreds and hundreds of other churches. Now it's interesting that one of the major figures, the key players in founding in Philadelphia Association, was Eli Keach, Benjamin Keach's son. Eli Keach came to America, began to pastor and one Lord's Day while preaching, realized he was lost and was converted under his own preaching. So, if you've ever felt lost ... I'm not sure my preachings powerful enough to make me feel lost. The text makes me feel lost sometimes. But, Eli Keach was converted under his own preaching. God uses various and [inaudible 00:12:14] means to bring us to Himself. That's one of the more odd conversion stories in the history of the church to me. 

But he had actually come to rebel against his father in many ways. He was kind of using the pastoral ministry as a means of doing that. And God subdued him and drew him to Himself and he was one of the founders, probably the key founder of the Philadelphia Association. Our sin does not get in God's way ... does not stand in the way of His purposes. 

Now there's basically nine purposes for the Association. Nine things they were together for. I guess this might of been the first nine marks. I don't know. But, here are the nine things they were together for. 

The first was to advise churches. The Association sought to serve as kind of an advisory panel ... kind of a loose nit advisory council for the member churches. Because questions often arose and churches met together to get the answers. So the query, or the questions, was a regular feature of the meeting. Just to give you an example ... I'll use a lot of illustrations through here. The 1723 meeting, the church of Brandywine sought help for Sundays when they had no one to preach on the Lord's day. 

They asked the question, "How should we proceed? We have a preacher through here about two Sunday's out of four. What should we do? Should we shut down? Should we try to find someone among us, a young man perhaps? How should we handle this?" And here was their answer, they said, "We can see" ... They'd have a solution. They'd always publish this at the end of the meeting and I have the minutes right here, as a matter of fact. They would publish this in the minutes. "We can see that expedient that the church do meet together as often as conviency will admit. And when they have none to carry on the work of preaching, they read a chapter, sing a Psalm, and go to prayer and beg of God to increase their grace and comfort, and have due regard to order and decency in the exercise of their gifts in a mix multitude until tried and approved of first by the church". 

So, find somebody to preach, at least read God's word, 'cause God's word's powerful, right? If you do nothing else, just read God's word. I mean even Charles Spurgeon was converted through just a bare reading of scripture in a Methodist church on a snowy Sunday evening. So, God's word is powerful. They really believed the power of the word. I think that's a lesson that church history, evangelicals particularly from the reformed period and after, really teach us, is to trust the word. 

Another example, a 1722 meeting, a proposal the church asked among themselves to see if they have any young men hopeful for the ministry. And declinable for learning. And if they have, to give notice to a Mr. Abel Morgan, one of the prominent leaders in Philadelphia, for the first of November, that he might recommend them to an academy. And we're gonna see a little bit later, they would offer financial assistance to young men who had been called and gifted to preach, which I think we should continue today. 

Another illustration of kind of advisory ... how they sought to advise churches. A question from a church in 1724, whether a believer may marry an unbeliever. This is like TGC Asks, these are the kind of questions I get in our TGC Ask box. Really. That's kind of how this function. It didn't have very quick means of communication back in those days, so go to the Association meeting and ask. Is it ... whether a believer may marry an unbeliever without coming under church discipline for it. And the answer was 'no'. That's it, 'no'. So, if a believer married an unbeliever willfully, then there should be church discipline. It was 'no' ... That was the answer. Now typically you'd get a much more ... at least that's what we have on the minutes. I feel certain there must of been some kind of explanation, maybe some kind of Biblical exposition. Alright. But, just 'no'. Of course, we would agree with that. 

Another question that same year, 1724, "If a man forfeits the office of elderly, disqualifies himself morally, does he also disqualify himself from church membership? Or, if he repents and is restored to membership, converts, should he also be restored as a elder?" This reminds me so much of TG- ... I get these kid of questions, we get them all the time 'cause there's churches out there that isolated ... they've run into this and they want to know what should you do. Mark Dever ... You see the 9Mark's Mailbag. I love that because it's always things like this Jonathan Lemon will answer the question. I love that. So the Association advised the body to deal with this as a whole and come to a unanimous conclusion. It's kind of a case by case basis with these men. And they had a longer explanation. But these are the kinds of ways they sought to advise churches. Again, kind of an early 9Mark's Mailbag or TGC Asks, which I thinks a wonderful way to help other churches.

Now for several years, the Philadelphia Association took a special interest in helping churches in the deep south, that lacked solid Baptist churches. There just weren't many churches in those days. Of course, our country was expanding westward. In the deep south there were many areas that were ... Like the Appalachian Mountain's, actually where I'm from, there weren't a lot of churches so they would send preachers down there to develop preaching stations in the [inaudible 00:17:17] churches and try to plant solid churches. We'll get to that in a little bit. But anyway, they sought to advise churches and to help churches as one Association. Then it said, "to preach the gospel, council feeble churches, and instruct scattered disciples of Christ". They would draw them together to see if perhaps there was a church that could be planted in a given area, maybe north Georgia, or western North Carolina, somewhere like that that's much more remote. So anyway, the first thing they were together for was to advise churches. 

Secondly, to discipline ministers. And so to warn the Association against a particular minister, or they could dis-fellowship at church that did not follow their guidance. If they hired a pastor who wasn't theologically solid ... did not adhere to the confession of faith and perhaps held as some kind of heresy. Again, these are big different times and so communication was at a premium. Often, these men will gain a reputation that's just been spread by word of mouth and so the Association would take up what they heard about these men. Of course, they usually do this not in front of the entire Association, they'd do this in more private type meetings. And they would discipline ministers. 

An example of this, a Mr. Worth of Pitgrove, "Was gone too far in the doctrine of universal salvation" And that's not Armenism is, that's universalism. "We are certified by undoubted authority that he is now fully in that belief. We therefore, to show our adhorence of that doctrine, and all of his disingenuous conduct for a long time past, caution our churches to beware of him and of Artist Seagraves of the same place also, who has espoused the same doctrines". They kind of put it out ... kind of a bulletin as a word about these men. "Watch out for them, the adhere to old universalism and many in his church have been ... have come under his sway". And so the would vote. Obviously, they didn't have binding authority, this was a voluntary Association almost like the SBC is today when they pass resolutions, they're not binding authority. But they make recommendations and then they could say ... If we don't follow those recommendations, they could put them out. Say, "Well then, we are gonna discharge you. Eject you from the Association". 

So advise churches, disciple ministers, and thirdly, withdrawal fellowship from a disorderly church. Because the driving principle of the Association was that they would have like-faith and order. The Association wrote an essay on the powers of Association adopted in 1749. Writing, "Such withdrawing from a defective or disorderly church or that aught to be towards a delinquent church, as such ariseth form their voluntary confederation a forth said" ... you got a good bit of Elizabethan language here. "And not only from the general duty that is incumbent on all orthodox persons and churches to do where no such confederation is entered into, as 2nd Corinthians 16 and 17". It was this long essay about the principals by which they would fellowship and discharge churches from the Association. And this was kind of clear presentation of the relationship between a local church and the Association. And this strongly affirmed, later on, the autonomy of the local church. So they weren't bound by any of this, they're still autonomous. Again, like the SBC is today. 

Fourthly, they worked to maintain harmony between the churches. I'm gonna move on because I want to spend a lot of time on the fifth one. They sought to adopt to a confession of faith and promote doctrinal unity. Doctrine is very, very importation to the Associations. And interestingly enough, it could not be different today in baptist Associations. 

One of my best friends pastored at a church down in north Georgia that my family helped plant about 10 years ago. And their annual Association meeting in ... I think it was back in the spring. The Associational sermon was basically a defense of modalism, the Trinitarian heresy. There's 300 pastors there, and he and a couple other pastors are the ones who figured this out. Listening to it, he called me and said, "Let me play some of this for you". I said, "Yeah. That's definitely modalism". So he talked to some of the officials in the Association and they just called him a trouble avisceral. So it's very different today, very different climate. Theology and doctrine ... This is an older, I think maybe perhaps a different generation than the Southern Baptist Convention, but doctrine just doesn't hold sway. He said he couldn't even get them to discuss it. He wrote a letter to the editor of the Christian Index of Georgia and they wouldn't publish it. They said it dismerits the reputation of a man who's well known to many, unfortunately. So we're a very different climate. 

But, the Philadelphia Association sought to adopt a confession of faith, they did this in 1742. They adopted the second line to confession, 1689, and added two articles. One on the singing of hymns, Psalms, and spiritual songs and worship. And two, the laying on of hands as part of baptism. Now the first additional article arose out of a hymn singing controversy out of England involving Benjamin Keach, Elias Keach's father. Of course, Benjamin Keach is partly to ... I think, partly responsible for us signing Psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs today at our churches. Because he argued affirmatively, that we're not just bound by the songs here, not just bound by Psalms. And it's okay for us to write robust hymnody. 

Though those who argued, Agustus Toplady and others, they shouldn't be writing those hymns because "they don't use scriptural language", which they certainly do use scriptural language, these old hymns. But they just wanted to sing the Psalms. So it was a major controversy and Keach won out and it's so important. This controversy crashed on the shores of America. SO important that they added an article in the confession dealing with it. So the churches would have robust music. So maybe, Sojourn music, I don't know if it's a derivative of this, but now we have ... I think there is some terrific hymnody being written today in a much more contemporary ... set to contemporary music. I think it started here, perhaps. Back in 1707. 

But the Association took the confession of faith very seriously and referred to it to answer the query's. This is how they answered when a question would arise, they would refer to the confession of faith, which I think is the way it should be done. I think a confessional church or a confessional Association is a strong church or a strong Association. And so this became the generally adopted doctrinal standard for all of the member churches, virtually all the churches adopted it. If they didn't its because they already had a confession of faith that was ... it was usually the second living confession. So it was just kind of unquestioned. Its kind of hard to imagine that now isn't it. In the age we live in now. Probably in the Sojourn network, like at southern Seminary and churches in our orbit, we love confessionalism, but that's not the norm. 

So, most of these church adopted the Philadelphia Confession, it was called. And so by 1772, the Association began to do an exposition of every single article at the Associational meeting. They'd have a doctrinal sermon and then publish a circular letter afterword unpacking the doctrine. The first circular letters written by Reverend Abel Morgan told in the doctrine of scripture and affirmed the full authority and inspiration of scripture. So they voted to print the confession, and then in 1774 the Association adopted the policy of making observations and improvements of some particular article of faith contained in the confession, beginning with the first and so on in order as needed. In other words, even then there were issues within the culture that pressed in on the church. 

If you remember back in 2000 or back in 1999, 1998 and 99, southern baptists added an article to the baptist faith and message. They revised it, first of all, and added an article on family in gender. Because feminism was pressing in on the church and southern baptists had to address it. So this is a contemporary example of this very same thing. They allowed for it to change over time to address issues that rose in the culture. It was to be a static documenture of the doctrines, but it also allowed for them to address cultural issues as they arose, which I think is wise, very wise. 

But you might ask, "Didn't that undermine the authority of the autonomy rather, of the individual churches?". Well, the Association affirmed the right to adopt a confession and expected churches to adhere to it on the basis of two principles. One, the general Christian obligation according to Second Corinthians 6:16 and 17, to admonish brethren to separate from error. Well how to we know what error is? Well we first have to set forth orthodoxy as a cannon against which we measure for error. So, that was one. And two, it concerned the nature of such involuntary confederation as an Association ... what it is. You voluntarily associate with us, so in associating with us, you agree with us doctrinally, or else you won't be a part of the Association. That's the fundamentals of being a part of this Association. These are churches agreeing in doctrine and practice who, by nature, are independent, they said. Their union is voluntary ...

But adherence to the first principle [inaudible 00:26:31] in sound doctrine and regular practice. Where I read First Timothy 4:4. Sound doctrine and sound practice. And they were inextricably wed to these particular baptists. And that was what determined the character of the union. And so they wrote ... it naturally follows it ... such a defection in a doctrine or practice in any church in such confederation or in any party in such church, is ground sufficient for an Association to withdrawal from such a church. And to exclude such from them in a formal matter. So in addition, they could bear testimony against the defection, and you see this happen once in a while. 

I think this is kinda like what the Southern Baptist Convention might to if a church affirmed ... [audio cut off 00:27:12]

... in this a couple times. A few years back, maybe four or five, maybe longer than that. The older I get, the more time chronology starts to really mess with me. I'll tell my wife, "that was four years ago", she said, "Honey, that was ten years ago". Anyway, several years ago the SBC disfellowshiped, of course, informally, two churches in Atlanta for affirming same sex marriage. And of course, that was before the [inaudible 00:27:38] decision on that several years ago. They reserve the right to do that. A church defected from its doctrine or practice. 

So they adopted this confession, and they used it basically in six way, the churches, and the Association. One, as an affirmation of and defense of the truth, of course. These doctrines are the core of the evangelical faith. We affirmed these things and deny anything that any church or individual that denies these doctrines. So, that's what motivated the churches. The same thing that motivated this Association that's motivated the general assembly in London in 1689. 

Secondly, they use it as the baseline for church discipline. As a mattered stewardship church, purity and love to neighbor, faithful pastor, a faithful elder board, a faithful church member must keep a close eye on the life and doctrine of those within the congregation. Not just pastors, also church members. Of course, the Association didn't do this, but the ... There was a very clear understanding that there would be accountability among the church members and church discipline was expected. That's that ... You guys, being a local church ministry, you know that's a hard sell today isn't it. 

I think the toughest thing I've ever done was a first church discipline case in a church I pastored at years ago down in Alabama. It was a prominent member who'd been in the church, as she loved to remind me, 47 years, who sinned egregiously against the church, and openly, and flouted the elders ... not the elder's authority, but flouted the elder's recommendation. They made a recommendation to sell a piece of land that she had rebelled, and started smear campaign, and all this stuff. And was very surprised when we wanted to meet with her. And cried, "Autonomy, autonomy". So it's difficult, isn't it. But if you have a doctrinal standard, and we did, so this is what we are expected to adhere to, then we have a baseline for church discipline. So, we keep a close eye on our life and doctrine. 

Andrew Fuller, an old baptist theologian, wrote of the care that must be taken in church discipline and the role of confession in that pursuit. He said, "If a religion community agrees to specify some leading principles, which they consider as derived from the word of God and judge the belief of them to be necessary in order to any persons becoming or continuing a member with them, it does not follow that these principles should be equally understood, or that all their brethren must have the same degree of knowledge. Nor yet, that should understand and believe nothing else. The powers and capacities of different persons are various. One may comprehend more of the same truth than another, and have his views more enlarged by an exceedingly great variety of kindred ideas. And yet, the substance of their belief may be the same. The object of the articles is to keep a distance, not those who are weak in the faith, but such are as his avowed enemies." 

So these churches were not seeking to be doctrinaire. In other words, you don't have to be a seminary graduate and have exhaustive understanding of these doctrines to be a church member. I don't know about you guys, but our church, we don't require any church members to sign the confession of faith to join our church. In our new members class we go through the confession clearly, we tell them, "Hey. This is where our doctrine live. If you're here, you're gonna be happy here. If you're not or if you wanna think about this ... But you don't have to subscribe to every article or even understand it to the degree that the elders do", but this is what they agree on. Now, the have to sign the church covenant. This is what you're agreeing to. You're agreeing to meet regularly, to give of your time and resources, and things like that. And the Association dealt with that as well, so we're not being doctrinaire here. We're not just seeking to fill our church with egg heads who understand theology exhaustively, or something like that. That's what Fuller is getting at, and that is exactly right. Good way to use confession of faith. 

They also used it thirdly, as a clear and concise standard by which you evaluate ministers of the word. If you call a minister to your church, the first thing I wanna know is, "What do you believe? What do you teach?". We just elected a new elder about six weeks ago, and I knew what he believed, but we put him through the ringer doctrinally. We put him through the ringer. He was a Southern Seminary graduate. I'd actually taught him before. But it didn't matter, we put him through the ringer. "What do you believe? Can you defend these doctrines? Do you know what they mean?" He did well. He did quite well, but I think we want to evaluate ministers very, very carefully. And I think Sojourn Network and other confederations like this do a good job of this. A lot of this is just ... I'm confirming what you're doing. What y'all are doing is rooted in history, I think. I'm not here to teach anything new, as so much, to just affirm what you're doing and say, "This is good, just keep doing it". There may be some corrections is places that these old baptists can teach us. 

The fourth thing they used the confession for was a doctrinal basis for planting daughter churches. Have the like doctrinal DNA. When we plant a church, it's gonna have our confession of faith, it's gonna have our doctrine, right? We want it to have robust, sound doctrine. My entire goal for getting into ministry is going back to my hometown ... my little hillbilly town in Georgia, and plating a church there where no solid baptist church existed. We planted it, I'm just not the pastor, my best friend is. They adopted a confession of faith first thing. That's the basis upon which they were planted. They continue to teach and preach out of that today, a decade later. 

Fifthly, is a means of establishing historal continuity and unity with other Christians. We're not just reformed Christians, or credo-Baptist Christians, we're Christians first of all. Right? We're evangelicals. We hold like faith and practice with evangelical Methodists, evangelical Pentecostals, evangelical Congregationalists, all who hold things like, justification by faith, inheritance, efficiency and inspiration of scripture, and all those things. It shows our doctrinal fidelity, but also our adherence to those doctrines in and union with those Christians. 

And finally, as a means of theological triage in Christian maturity. It's what they taught. They used it in doctrinal controversy. Is this a first level ... Doctor Moler did not ... Al Mohler [inaudible 00:33:49] didn't invent the altrical triage. They were doing this back then. They didn't call it that. And of course, he knows he's drawing on history as well ... church history. But it was an important means of saying, "Okay. Is this a first level issue? Is this a disagreement over the return of Christ? Is the timing of his return? Or is this a disagreement over justification by faith?" Those are vastly different questions aren't they. I mean, when is Jesus coming back? I have no idea. People in my home town are very fascinated by that, and I've been to seminary, they expect me to have the answer. I tell them, "I don't know". You don't either. 

So, we're gonna give some latitude on the doctrine, right? Or maybe even spiritual gifts ... questions on things like that, second level issues. Justification by faith, scripture, the trinity, things like that, no. We're not gonna give an inch on that. And so these were teaching tools to teach their people theological triaging Christian maturity. That was how they sought to use the confession of faith adoptive. They were very much driven by doctrine and theology. Again, not in a doctrinaire, arrogant, and exclusive sort of way, but I think in a very Biblical sort of way. The Bible's a theological triace. It's a theologically annotated story, in many ways. [inaudible 00:35:06] for a difference in new creation, theological [inaudible 00:35:08] [audio quit 00:35:08] Story telling us about all that. And it's very consistent, of course, this tradition is very consistent with that. 

The sixth thing that the Association ... getting back to just the big picture of why the Association was formed. The sixth reason was the Association sought to speak to sociopolitical issues. Political controversies are nothing new, and of course, we know this. We've had bad elections before. It's interesting, I've been reading the biography in the last few days of President Truman and Douglas MacArthur, those two men together, controversies they had together. Its interesting how questions in the election when Truman decided not to run are very similar today. And that's just a few years ago. That's just after World War II. There's nothing new under the sun. It's almost like well, this recent election cycle's destroyed everything. Well, I mean, it's been destroyed before. Nothing new under the sun. 

You see the Philadelphia Association speak to political issues because, low and behold, they invade the church, and their members are seeking a Biblical answer. Its not like they just talked about theology all the time in an egg head sort of way, but it landed on the ground in the lives of these people. 

The 1789 meeting delegates encouraged churches to work for the abolition of slavery. Again, this is 1789. Slavery's not abolished in England until 1833. So, they were way ahead of their time. In fact, this is what they said from the minutes, "Agreeable agreeably to a recommendation in the letter from the church at Baltimore. This Association declares there high approbation, or approval, of the several Associations formed in the United States and Europe for the gradual abolition of slavery of the Africans. And for guarding against their being detained or being sent off as slaves, or having obtained their liberty. And do hereby recommend to the churches we represent, to form similar societies, to become members thereof, and exert themselves to obtain this important objective". That almost surprises you doesn't it. That they saw this evil. All these years ... this is, you're talking 60 plus years before the Civil War. For the question really began to phone it in America and there was change. And 40 years, 45 years, or some odd years before, slavery was abolished in England. Way before [inaudible 00:37:35] took its effect. So they were dealing with these issues in ways that kind of surprise us.

The Association would also issue an annual circular letter, which dealt with a doctrine or some front burner theological, or even political issue. It was written by selected pastor within the Association that often encouraged the Association, sought to encourage the churches to correct, to rebuke, to clarify a doctrinal issue or ethical issue facing the churches. Just one example, 1784, John Gano, very famous Baptist pastor in the Philadelphia Association wrote a circular letter expositing the doctrine of effectual call. And we don't really see much like that anymore, do we? Effectual call ... It says, "As an incentive to increase our thanksgiving for present peace [inaudible 00:38:20], and increase of our churches, our prayers for the further growth, with a more powerful affusion of the divine spirit and grace upon them". SO the effectual call was very practical to him, and he wanted to be practical to the people. It should promote prayer. It should not promote spiritual gridlock, but prayer. And praying for souls for the churches to increase and grow by conversion. So the Association spoke to sociopolitical issues. 

Seventh, it encouraged the education of ministers. In 1789, they wrote ... the minutes record, "The importance of raising a fund for the education of pyas young men for the ministry". And so the Association began to take up a fund to support ministers who were inclined toward learning. Boy, that'd be great today, wouldn't it? If finance were not a barrier to young men coming to seminary. I would love to see Associations recover that. I would love to see Sojourn Network ... and they may do something like this, I'm not certain, but I'd love to see churches do this. My home church back in Georgia used to do this very well. They helped me when I was here. They helped men called to ministry. Helped for immediate needs and also in an ongoing way. Associations now help slight bit, usually if you're from that ... your state convention will help you, or state Association will help you, or local Association will help you. But, its very minimal. But they wanted to fun their education. 

The eight thing they're together for is fellowship. Just being together. I'm gonna just leave that there. 

Finally, to meet mission needs in the surrounding area. Which is what we're doing today, right? Planting churches, meeting mission needs. John Gano, the same minister in the Philadelphia Association at least, we'll say twice, to places in South Carolina and North Carolina, remote places that were destine- [audio cut 00:40:14]

Preaching. Preached for several months. And of course, the Philadelphia Association was instrumental in planting dozens and dozens and dozens of churches over it's first hundred years. Particularly, in the mid-west and the deep south. Churches with this kind of confessional DNA. During this time, it was almost a little bit of a golden age, a lot of good churches during that time. In fact, a church I grew up in is planted by the Charleston Association, which began in 1751 and was sort of a first cousin to the Philadelphia Association in the deep south. The church I grew up in was planted by that Association. It had long sense departed from the doctrines that it held in those early days. And fortunately, in that early 1800's, it was planted in the Second Great Awakening. It was a lot of funky stuff going on down there during that time of revival and revivalism. 

Okay. So, why should we care? What does it mean? Well, six quick application of what ... some and we'll talk. You can ask anything, we'll talk. One, a lesson we aught to associate with like minded churches for doctrinal and ethical accountability. We gotta keep a close watch on our lives and doctrines because souls are at stake right. We need each other to do that. Churches to do that. 

Secondly, we aught to associate with like minded churches to help and encourage pastors. In my work here at TGC, I hear from pastors all the time, who pull the sound doctrine and yet feel very isolated. They say, "I'm the only guy in my town in my region who believes this. What should I do? How would you encourage me to connect with other ministers? Do you know anybody?" We have a church role at TGC. "Do you know of anyone who's out here maybe? Who I can fellowship with". And that may resonate with some of you. I've got friends in places like that. Remote places where they're the only ones and some of the other pastors find out kind of they're, baptistic and they hold these doctrines, and it seems kind of weird, or something. They're not a lot of good fellowship. So, we want to encourage pastors I think. 

Thirdly, we aught to associate with like minded churches to better steward our financial and ministerial resources, which we talked about already. A pastor in Alabama that had a catastrophic financial situation, which actually cost me the ministry there. I had to leave, I had no choice. We left on good terms and what not. But, another Baptist church in town sent a man there. He was bi-locational and they sent people and money and it revitalized that church. Now they didn't take it over, they just sent ... We were like minded theologists, so they sent a man there and send financial resources, so now the church is doing really well. It's recovered, if I'd stayed it couldn't recover. Because they were paying me a salary, I was trying to be bi-locational, and there's a long story short. But, I think that's a very fine example of an answered prayer of how we can help to better steward our financial and ministerial resources. 

Fourthly, we aught to associate with like minded churches for the sake of gospel mission. Right now, our church here is partnering with ... beginning a partnership with a church in inner city Cincinnati, a like minded church over there. We're sending people over there to work and to participate on their outreaches on Fridays and Saturdays. And they're sending people over here. We hope to eventually plant a church in the west end of Louisville, a really, really difficult area that has one church that's been planted there over the last years, but not much gospel witness there. So we're hoping to do that. Obviously we're together for the sake of mission, that's why the SBC formed in the first place. Not the circumstances, but the reason for us coming together. 

Fifthly, consider planting churches not just in urban or suburban centers, but also in rural areas or places where there tend to be very little real gospel presence. Here's what I mean by very little real gospel presence. I'm from a county in Georgia that has 12,000 people and 70 churches. 70. Do you know how many of those churches I would recommend to you? If you came to me and said, "I'm gonna be in your hometown, Jeff. Where would you go to church?" Two. One that we planted, which was a Baptist church. And the Presbyterian church, the PCA church. There is nothing else. There are 70 churches and I mean ... I grew up there. I grew up in a couple of those churches. They're well meaning people, I'm not in any way degrading the people, I love the people. They're my hillbillies, I like the hillbilly elegy. Those are my people. But, there's just not much gospel witness there. 

And my friend there ... I preach often. I do seminars on weekends and stuff with them every ... regularly go down there and preach and what not and they're just hungry for it because there's nothing there. There's just nothing there at all. Not much gospel witness. It's solid [inaudible 00:44:58] churches, but the Lord doesn't work there. We're starting to find that God's raising other like minded brothers, which I'm very, very grateful for. 

And finally ... and this is one of the only quasi-controversial thing I'm gonna say. Multi-site churches should consider as a goal, turning other sites into autonomous churches, with a supporting church, and all her daughter churches functioning as an Association as here described. I think this is a good model for these multi-site churches ... to become this. And this may be what some ... I know some of them are doing this. And that's a good thing. I'm not a huge fan of the multi-site movement. I'm gonna be honest with you. 

But I think if the goal is to function as the Baptist Associations once did, to provide financial means for churches, and encouragement, and ministry, capitol and things like that ... pastors and whatever they need. I'm all for it. And I think that's a good way to function, you don't have to call it an Association. That may be an anachronistic term, doesn't matter. It could be a coalition, it could be a network, I like that. But, to function that way. Instead of having a Presbyterian form of church government, which I'm not quite comfortable with. But I'm much more comfortable with this, and I think this is the good model, at least on that score. And I think that's where the help comes. And I think all these other ... the nine things they are together for, which groups like, Sojourn Network and others, they're together for almost all those things. This is nothing new. So, I'm very grateful for the Sojourn Network and all very similar organizations who are doing this kind of work and are having conferences like this. Bringing you guys together for encouragement and all kinds of other reasons.  

So, that's how I hope these dead Baptists can help us or continuing to help us. Maybe if we're doing these things, it's nothing new. Again, we're drawing on it. We're drawing from a deep well of tradition that stretches all the way back to the reformation, and I would argue all the way back to scripture, of course. Of why we're doing these things.