Baptists > Distinctives > Church Autonomy
             Aligned with a fellowship?
                  In an association?
            Part of a large convention?
                     But never, never, never....
                                         ....a denomination!
   If there is any one thing that distinguishes the Baptists from all other Christian denominations, it is the fact that each local church is totally independent of any kind of denominational hierarchy.  Furthermore, like  "Heinz 57 Varieties," they are as varied as can be while maintaining a very close connection with the Biblical doctrines regarding the independency of the each organized congregation.
   They do not define their existence by any affiliation with a denomination.  In fact, despite their total agreement with the fundamental doctrines of their faith, the Baptist church down the street can be a totally different flavor from the one just a few blocks away.
    As a result, those who align their doctrinal convictions with those of the Baptists stand in stark contrast to both the Roman Catholic tradition as well as even mainline Protestantism.  In fact, Baptists struggle with being identified as Protestants.  Whether they ascribe to the view that independent believers who predated today's Baptists were never a part of Catholocism or that they indeed separated from the Romanists via the Mennonite route, not one single baptistic church feels comfortable being associated with them.
   Contrary to false perceptions, Baptists are not a denomination.  Although, they band together to support a common missions program or support their own Bible colleges, they remain fiercely independent.  No hierarchy outside each church's own internal government (pastor and deacons) will be tolerated.  Even when aligned with an organized group (whether referred to as an association, a convention, or a fellowship), no officer of that group has any direct authority over the local church.  Those who try will be speedily shot down and set aside.
   Each church is independent.  It answers to no higher authority.  The governing body is the congregation itself.  Whether the church defines itself as being led by the pastor, led by the deacons, or totally congregationalized, one thing is for sure.  It will never bend the knee to anyone outside it's own autonomous organization.  Some may cooperate more closely with a group They may even submit themselves to the general expectations
of the group.  However, when push comes to shove, they will separate themselves out of that group and either associate with another or remain independent.
   Being a Baptist means that one enjoys individual soul
liberty.  It also means that the church one belongs to honors that same Scriptural doctrine in regard to being independent in submission to none other than the Word and Holy Spirit of God.
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Slippage Questions: Church Autonomy

"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip."  ~ Hebrews 2:1

1. Who "runs" your church?  The congregation?  The pastor?  The deacons?
2. Is the church to which you belong strong enough to avoid being too submissive to a a Baptist association or is it being too compliant?
3. Would the church where you hold your membership be willing to change it's affiliation with another Baptist association if it could be more effective in it's outreach, missions program, and training of young pastors?
4. Is your church's affiliation with an organized group of Baptist churches based on a proven effective way to amplify it's effectiveness or is it a matter of history and tradition?
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