A Rope of Sand with Strength of Steel 有著鋼鐵力量的一條沙子繩

A Yokefellow’s Chronicle: A Rope of Sand with Strength of Steel 有著鋼鐵力量的一條沙子繩

As the Local Arrangement Committee of the Fellowship made final plans to get the publicity materials and registration information of the 20th Biennial Conference out to the churches, I was truly amazed by the teamwork they displayed. All of them were busy pastors serving in their respective churches and yet they could find the time to meet and get the job done. And they did it joyfully and voluntarily. There will be more meetings and work ahead of them as the Conference draws near. Hats off to them!

The way they work together illustrates for me what really makes the Fellowship work. I have always contended that the existence of a Fellowship itself in Baptist polity is nothing short of a miracle. It is not supposed to happen considering that each Baptist church is a local autonomous entity and independent in governance. In Baptist polity, there is no one body outside the local church that tells it how it is to do church or even what it should believe. A Fellowship is comprised of churches of like faith and order who voluntarily come together for mutual encouragement and edification to engage in a cause that is larger than themselves. What binds them together is not an adherence to rules that compel them to come together by virtue of membership in a denomination but a commitment to a cause through voluntary participation in fellowship with one another. And the synergy of churches coming together this way would unleash a power for good, when harnessed in the right way, for the cause of Christ and for His Kingdom’s work. In the words of the great Southern Baptist statesman of another generation, Dr. James Sullivan, it is “a rope of sand with strength of steel.”

This has been the strength of Southern Baptists. The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the US and it became large and strong not because it has a structure with the head calling the shots. Far from it. They may have a building that houses their administrative offices in a particular state, but it is never referred to as their “headquarters”. There is none! The Convention exists for the church not the other way around. Without churches, there is no Convention but without the Convention, there would still be churches. (Very biblical!) The annual meeting held over a couple of days called “The Southern Baptist Convention” is attended by messengers sent by member churches, and they are not delegates. (Big differences between the two but that’s for another day!) In fact, that’s the real Convention and after the meeting, messengers bring their reports back to the churches about the decisions made at the meeting and it is totally up to the churches to join in implementing them. In conventional terms, it would seemed like a total waste of time and the least efficient way to “run” a large denomination and sooner or later everyone would throw up their hands and give up! But no!

The glue that held the member churches together as a group (called a “denomination”) was an undying commitment to a cause – the fulfillment of the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ – and that is to make disciples of all nations, to proclaim the Gospel to everyone, and to be witnesses for Him both near and far. And because of this commitment, they gave to the “Cooperative Program” to fund the activities of the denomination; they gave large amounts every year to missions through the Annie Armstrong Mission Offering for North American missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions; they supported ministries under the ambit of the “denomination” be that missions, publishing, theological education, community concerns and so on.

The same is true for the Chinese Baptist Fellowship of the US and Canada. It is never intended to be an added burden to the churches or another Christian organization to support. The Fellowship exists for the church and is a servant of the church. It provides the platform for a people called Baptist through which they could share resources that would enable all churches, big or small, strong or weak, with or without resources to fulfill the Great Commission and to obey the Great Commandment. By focusing on a particular ethnic group, it is able to hone in more effectively the peculiar and unique needs of that group. Our coming together as a Fellowship is compelled not by command but by a commitment to a cause – to bring together our resources to encourage each other and to help one another to preach the Gospel to everyone and to make disciples of all nations and to obey the Great Commandment, to love God and neighbor. It is never intended to replace the role and the function of the church or become a super church. It exists at the will of the churches so that they can do what no one individual church can do all by themselves. “A rope of sand with strength of steel” indeed for the glory of God!

當聯會本地籌委員會為著要把第二十屆雙年會的宣傳資料和註冊信息送到各教會去而做最後的計劃時,他們的團隊合作精神實在讓我感到驚喜。 他們都是在各自教會中忙碌的牧師,但他們都騰出時間去商議並完成工作。 他們甘心樂意地做了這件事。 會議即將召開,屆時將有更多的會議和工作等著他們。 在此向他們致敬!

他們一起工作的方式說明了聯會如何能有效地工作。我一直認為在浸信會的體制中,聯會的存在,本身就是一個奇蹟。在考慮到每個浸信會都是一個地方自治實體,獨立自理,這原不應該發生。在浸信會體制中,在地方教會之外,沒有一個機構能吩咐她該如何進行教會事工,甚是該相信什麼。聯會是由信仰和體制相同的教會所組成,他們自願地聚在一起,彼此鼓勵和建立,從事比自己更大的事業。把她們連結在一起的,並不是靠著持守著一些規條,或因著她們是一個宗派的成員而強迫她們加入,而是通過自願參與,並彼此團契來致力於一個事業。教會這樣彼此協力,就能發出美善的力量,以正確的方式來成就為基督的聖工和祂國度的工作。用另一個世代的美南浸信會領袖詹姆斯·沙利文博士的話來說,這是“有著鋼鐵力量的一條沙子繩"。

這是美南浸信會的力量。美南浸信會是美國最大的基督教宗派,她變得強大,並不是因為它有著一個能發號施令的領導的結構。根本不是這樣。他們可能在某一個州有一個建築物,來安放他們的行政辦公室,但卻從沒有稱哪裡為他們的“總部”。根本就沒有!聯會是為著教會而存在, 而不是倒過來的。沒有教會,就沒有聯會,但沒有聯會,仍然會有教會。 (非常符合聖經!)那稱為“美南浸信會聯會",有著幾天的年會,由會員派出的會使出席,他們不是代表。 (兩者之間有很大的分歧,留待將來再討論!)事實上,這是真正的聯會,會後,會使把有關會議上所做的決定的報告帶回教會,至於是否推行這些決議,則完全取決於教會。在一般的情況下,這似乎是浪費時間,並且是運作一個大宗派的最低效率的方式,遲早每個人都會放手不理!但實情卻不是這樣。

把會員們召集在一起的粘合劑(稱為“宗派”)是對一個目標的不倦的承諾 – 成就主耶穌基督的大使命 – 就是讓萬民作主的門徒,向所有人傳播福音,並且不論遠近為主作見證。 由於這個承諾,他們奉獻給“合作計劃”來資助宗派的活動; 他們每年都通過“安妮莊復活節獻金”來支持北美宣教,和“慕拉第聖誕獻金”來支持海外宣教; 他們對“宗派”事工支持的範圍有宣教,出版,神學教育,和社區關懷等等。

美加華人浸信會聯會也是如此。她從來沒有打算成為教會的額外的負擔或另一個要支持的基督教組織。聯會是為著教會而存在,是教會的僕人。她為一個被稱為浸信會的人們提供了一個平台。通過這個平台,他們可以分享資源,使所有的教會,無論大小、強弱,有無資源都能完成大使命,服從大誡命。通過專注於一個特定的族群,她能夠更有效地切合該群體的特殊和獨特的需求。作為聯會,我們攜手合作,不是靠著命令,而是靠著對使命的承諾 – 把我們的資源集中在一起,互相鼓勵,互相幫助,把福音傳給每一個人,讓萬民成為主的門徒,服從偉大的誡命,愛上帝和鄰居。聯會從來沒有打算取代教會的角色和功能,或成為一個超級教會。她的存是在乎教會的意向,以使他們能做成任何人都不能自己單獨做成的事情。 “有著鋼鐵力量的一條沙子繩"的確是為了上帝的榮耀!

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