By Gerry Taillon
CNBC National Ministry Leader
The Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC) is in a revisioning process that will help to guide and motivate our movement for years to come. Part of this visioning process is to get a thorough understanding of who we are in the CNBC today and an accurate assessment of our current reality. In order to do that it is important to understand our heritage and history. The CNBC benefits from a foundation inherited by the initial pioneers of our convention who were passionate about our relationship with Southern Baptists and their vision for the Kingdom of God.
As I have studied Southern Baptist history and worked with our partners in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), I have observed four streams of influence that I believe have influenced Southern Baptists in the past and continue to shape both the Southern Baptist Convention and the CNBC to this very day. Though these four streams of influence are rooted in history, I see their reflection in many present-day debates and current issues.
The commitment to biblical revelation and doctrinal integrity
From the earliest history of Baptists in America we note the influence of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, one of the oldest Baptist associations in the new world. It was founded in 1707, nearly 50 years before any other association of its day. This Baptist association published its confession of faith called “Treatise of Discipline” which became, according to the Baptist Encyclopedia, “an immense power in favor of orthodoxy and piety among our rising churches.” Doctrine and biblical faithfulness became of major importance to Baptists and have been critical to our development and growth ever since. Hence the first influence stream of SBC and CNBC is the commitment to biblical revelation and doctrinal integrity.
The commitment to the priority of evangelism
Along with this influence, Baptists expanded and were a driving force in the Great Awakenings that swept much of America during the 1700s. Baptists in Sandy Creek, North Carolina, participated in revivals and evangelistic meetings that became normative for Baptist churches. They quickly spread, spawning many churches in the south and the west of the United States. Southern Baptists quickly realized the importance of evangelism as a crucial element in the church and the denomination. The second influence stream is the commitment to the priority of evangelism.
The commitment to the autonomous local church
Another movement that had a tremendous impact on Southern Baptist churches and the denomination family was the Landmark movement which occurred in the 1850s and 1860s. Though there were many excesses in this movement that led to countless debates and controversies, it influenced Southern Baptist life for years to come.
The major positive contribution which lasted beyond the movement itself was a confidence in local congregations to be led by God Himself and a reluctance or prohibition for the denomination to control or direct its churches. The tenet that local churches are autonomous and free to determine their own leadership and direction became a fundamental principle in Southern Baptist polity. To this day both the SBC and the CNBC operate according to this foundational principle. The third influence stream is the commitment to the autonomous local church.
The commitment to plant new churches and send missionaries
Finally, any evaluation of Southern Baptist and CNBC history will quickly realize the high priority of international missions and the planting of new churches. The two major boards of the SBC are the International Mission Board which is committed to sending international missionaries all over the world and the North American Mission Board which is committed to planting new churches across the USA and Canada. The CNBC has been absolutely committed to both priorities since its inception. Hence the fourth influence stream is the commitment to plant new churches and send missionaries across Canada and the United States and all over the world.
These four influence streams have always influenced us as Southern Baptists and in CNBC life. These streams take turns rising to prominence at different points in our history with the inevitable decline as balance requires. When one influence is emphasized to the exclusion of the others, we quickly lose our balanced perspectives and the result is often a betrayal of who we really are. When all four influences are kept in tension with one another we can be true to the mission and vision God has given us.
I am so grateful for the rich heritage we have in the CNBC. I am convinced when we are true to who God has led us to be, we can count on God to do even greater things through us in the future.
Reprinted from the October 2019 CNBC Horizon. Read more here.
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Jeff Christopherson is about fostering Kingdom movements of multiplying churches that transform neighbourhoods and the world with the good news of Jesus Christ. Jeff serves as Chief Missiologist and Co-Executive Director of the Send Institute. He is the author of Kingdom Matrix: Designing a Church for the Kingdom of God and Kingdom First: Starting Churches that Shape Movements. He and his wife, Laura, live in Cambridge, Ontario. They have two married children, Kelley and James.