My previous post focused on why I am still a part of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Despite this, I have to admit that I am attracted to the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA). Tonight I had the opportunity to preach at Ephesus Church in Rincon, GA. Ephesus, a member of ARBCA, has been praying for our family for the past year. I greatly enjoyed preaching from I Chronicles 16:8-36. The folks there were very sweet to us, encouraging us all evening. The spaghetti dinner after the service was a nice bonus.
Some readers may ask, "What is ARBCA?" There is a general misconception among some people that all Baptists are Southern Baptists, American Baptists, or Independent Baptists. Although these three groups are large, they do not make up all of the Baptist groups in America. Some Baptists are even Reformed, which means holding to the 5 "solas" of the Reformation.
So what is ARBCA? It is an association of Baptist churches that hold to the same confession of faith, the 1689 London Confession. There are currently fewer than 100 churches in ARBCA, but that number is gradually increasing. The purpose, according to the association website, is to, "advance Christ's kingdom by providing a fellowship in which churches of common confession may find mutual encouragement, assistance, edification, and counsel, and participate in cooperative efforts such as home and foreign missions, ministerial training, and publications, along with other such endeavors deemed appropriate by the Association."
I do not claim to be an expert on ARBCA, but this is what I have seen so far.
Why am I attracted to ARBCA? What advantages does it have compared to the SBC? There are three things that stand out. First, ARBCA is so much smaller than the SBC that it does not have the feel of a large corporation. Also, with fewer than 100 churches, meetings among members do not have to have the atmosphere of a large convention.
Second, the ARBCA leadership is not stuck in a perpetual wartime mentality. Ever since the Conservative Resurgence of the late 1970s and 1980s, the SBC has been, to one degree or another, at war. Even though the battle for the bible has been won in the SBC, it seems that people are still fighting about something all the time. For now, the disputes are over speaking in tongues, Calvinism, and the ordinance of baptism itself. Unless there is a fundamental change in the attitude of the SBC leadership, the squabbles will just be about something else five or ten years from now. ARBCA appears to be an association of united churches.
Third, I like the 1689 London Confession much more than the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. This is quite simple really. The 1689 Confession is much more Reformed in content than is the BF&M 2000. You probably know by now that I am (choose your label) a Calvinist, Reformed, and hold to the Doctrines of Grace. Also, the 1689 Confession is more specific than the BF&M 2000. This, naturally, lends itself to fewer debates and disagreements over interpretation.
In case you are wondering, ARBCA also assists local ARBCA churches in sending out missionaries to foreign lands (yes, it is possible to be Reformed, Evangelistic, and consistent all at the same time).
Because ARBCA is small, it does not yet have a seminary. I consider this to be a mixed blessing because it forces the local churches to do all they can to educate their young men who have a passion for teaching and preaching.
As I have said before, I do believe the SBC is doing some good, especially in the area of international missions. If it was not, I would no longer be part of it. However, the SBC could learn some things from ARBCA, especially in the area of unity.