By Steve Jones. Republished with permission from Thrive.
Since the 1990s, the executive leaders of five Baptist groups in Canada have gathered periodically for prayer, study, fellowship and conversation about mission.
In 2016 two of these presidents – of the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches and the Baptist General Conference – started a conversation about the possibility of collaboration to better engage and impact our nation with the gospel. Soon the national councils of both groups began to discuss this possibility. In 2019 a third Baptist family, the Canadian National Baptist Convention, was invited to join the conversation.
Several meetings followed, resulting in agreement that the mission is too great and the scope too large for anything less than a unified voice for the gospel in our country. The dialogue has been about deeper collaboration, not a merger. Our hope is that our combined collaborative effort could make a big impact for the gospel in our country in the years to come. However, the courtship must come before any talk of marriage. Let’s learn to crawl before we consider learning to walk or run together.
Why consider deeper collaboration?
Bigger is not always better; large size can make you sluggish. However, when all are pointed in the same direction, a larger force of missional churches has the capacity to make a significant impact. Our three Baptist families share a conservative theology and commitment to an adaptive missional approach to ministry.
Some of our executive leadership have met to consider if there is merit in joining together in the training of our leaders, caring for people through our humanitarian relief appeals, the possible planting of churches in the future and other initiatives.
We live in a time when the evangelical community is shrinking in Canada. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s recent survey (2019) indicated 6.4% of Canadians self-identified as evangelical — a drop from 7.7% five years ago and double-digit percentages only 30 years ago.
There are more evangelical churches deciding to adopt progressive theological positions, capitulating to the current culture. Evangelism rates are alarmingly low. Political correctness, group-think, and new theories make the future landscape for biblical worldview thinking both difficult to navigate and possibly legally challenging.
And the next generation has little stomach for institutional self-preservation rather than putting all our effort into Kingdom advancement. Could we imagine the synergy of three combined forces seeking to accomplish a single mission — whether that be feeding the hungry, planting more churches, training pastors or speaking with a single voice into our current culture and to government authorities? Could we be stronger together?
Three groups responding
The evangelical church in Canada is decreasing. Our own incremental growth (102 churches were planted by the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches from 2010-2020, but we remain approximately 500 churches total) is not going to provide the gospel engagement that needs to happen among all Canadians. None of our three Baptist groups are meaningfully adding to the total gospel ratio gains that we long for in our country on our own. But what if we worked together to lower a few of our walls, leverage our strengths and level our weaknesses? What might await us for God’s glory?
The executive leaders of the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches, Baptist General Conference, and Canadian National Baptist Convention have agreed to continue the journey to discover the right questions and discuss them with our leaders and larger constituencies; to discover what being on mission together might mean; to investigate what deeper collaboration looks like.
We are in the early days of this conversation, and we’re in no rush. There are many questions and few answers so far. We will seek the answers by faith, and they will determine what our future collaboration will look like. Please join with me in prayer as we seek the Lord for direction.
Originally published in the Winter 2021 issue of Thrive (www.Thrive-Magazine.ca) under the title “Is three better than one?” Republished with permission. Balloons photo by Aaron Burden from Unsplash.
Author: Steve Jones