An association of God-centred evangelical churches in Southern Africa
COMMITTED TO TRUTH. PASSIONATE ABOUT THE CHURCH.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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We are committed to the historic Christian faith as recaptured by the Protestant Reformers.
We believe that salvation is granted by the sovereign grace of God alone.
We believe that salvation comes through the instrument of faith alone.
We believe that salvation is granted in the name and by the merit of Jesus Christ alone.
We believe that everything we need for salvation Christian discipleship is found in Scripture alone.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
We believe that salvation is granted and Christian discipleship pursued for the glory of God alone.
Dear friend, “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want” (Psalm 23). The past six months have been the most difficult times I and my family have had to face. As most of you already know, I was involved in a tragic motor accident that sadly resulted in the deaths of...
Greetings friends, “Call upon me in the day of trouble. I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Psalm 50:15). I want to express my sincere thanks to everyone who prayed for us after my last report sent in June. At that point, Julie and I had been in South...
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Benefits of Church Associations
Four Benefits of Church Associations in 3 John
One distinctive of Baptist churches is their appreciation of local church autonomy. Sadly, autonomy sometimes devolves into isolation, and Baptist churches sometimes grow suspicious of denominations, unions, conventions, and associations. This ought not to be so. Churches who affirm the need for Christians to formalise church membership should understand that associations offer the same opportunity for local churches: the privilege of formalising partnerships. Here are four benefits of meaningful church associations.
Formal Communion (vv. 1–4)
John wrote 3 John to a friend named Gaius, who was a truth-loving, truth-committed member of a church with which John had fellowship. In writing to Gaius, John shows that formal fellowship between churches existed in New Testament times: Members of one church (where John held membership) travelled to visit another church (where Gaius held membership) and enjoyed fellowship and communion with the sister church.
These churches were bound together by “the truth.” Associations, like Sola 5, allow a formalising of inter-church communion in at least two ways.
First, we formalise our communion around a common Confession of Faith. Sola 5’s Confession is at once faithful to biblical truth, while at the same time allowing for a degree of freedom of conviction within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy.
Second, associations allow church members to share likeminded fellowship with confidence among “strangers” (v. 5). Sola 5’s annual conference, in particular, is a wonderful opportunity for this to take place. The annual conference is a time in which members from Sola 5 churches can forge bonds of fellowship that last for a long time to come.
Cooperative Efforts (vv. 5–10)
John commended Gaius for his hospitality to members from sister churches, who were “strangers” to him and rebuked Diotrophes for his reluctance to imitate that hospitality.
But John had a specific kind of “stranger” in mind: brothers who ought to be sent “on their journey in a manner worthy of God.” This speaks of material supply for missionaries, who had “gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.” By offering financial support, associating churches would become “fellow workers for the truth.” As Gaius’s church supported missionaries from John’s church, the two churches will be co-labourers in the Great Commission.
One benefit of associations is that they afford churches to be involved in missionary activity alongside other churches, and thereby to be “fellow workers for the truth.” In Sola 5, this can happen in one of at least two ways.
First, while there is no membership fee when joining Sola 5, there is opportunity to contribute directly to the association, which then seeks to distribute funds to worthwhile gospel causes, which in turn allows contributing churches to become “fellow workers for the truth.”
Second, relationships forged between churches enable churches to directly partner with each other in Great Commission initiatives, thereby allowing churches to become “fellow workers for the truth.” A refusal to co-operate looks more like Diotrophes than it does like Gaius!
Conscientious Commendation (vv. 11–12)
We know nothing of Demetrius except what is said of him here. Contextually, it seems like that he was a missionary. Gaius had shown great hospitality to and support of missionaries in the past (vv. 5–10), and John urged him to do the same here.
Demetrius received a triad of commendations.
First, he “received a good testimony from everyone.” “Everyone” here is a reference to Demetrius’s sending church. Gaius’s church could trust the man because he had the commendation of his sending church.
Second, he received commendation “from the truth itself.” His life bore witness to gospel truth. He lived life consistent with his profession and with the truths he preached.
Third, “we also add our testimony.” “We” is likely a reference to the apostles. Demetrius had the commendation both of his sending church and of the apostles—and apostolic commendation could be trusted: “You know that our testimony is true.”
Since Gaius trusted John, and since he trusted Demetrius’s church, and since he trusted the gospel, he could trust a man who had this triad of commendations. The commendation of brothers and sisters he trusted added weight to Demetrius’s ministry.
Sola 5 seeks to practice this principle. Membership applications are not accepted unless they come with a formal commendation of an existing church. If we trust the existing Sola 5 churches, it is safe to assume that we can trust a church that receives the commendation of an existing church.
Further, Sola 5 churches can be confident that they can trust ministers commended by Sola 5 churches—and be warned of those against whom Sola 5 churches warn! Pulpit supply can be offered and received with confidence. Missionaries and ministries commended by Sola 5 churches can be trusted by other Sola 5 churches.
Mutual Consent (vv. 13–15)
This principle may only be implied her, but it is taught throughout the New Testament. John could write much to Gaius, but face-to-face interaction would afford him opportunity to offer counsel to Gaius and to glean counsel from Gaius in return. Face-to-face fellowship would provide the platform for mutual encouragement and counsel.
The same truth applies to churches in association.
In an association like Sola 5, churches are able to seek the counsel of other churches in difficult situations—as the church in Antioch did when it sent representatives to the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:1–2ff). In a growing association like Sola 5, there is a wealth of wisdom and experience to draw on.
As churches get to know each other, and as church members get to know members of other churches, this kind of mutual encouragement potentially broadens. Paul was confident that members of the Roman church were “full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another” (Romans 15:14), and members of likeminded churches can do the same for each other.
John’s concern to send greetings to members of Gaius’s church “by name” implies a relationship between the churches that goes beyond casual acquaintance. Associations ought to provide a platform for this to be realised.
Within Sola 5, there is opportunity to get to know other churches and their ministries and to therefore pray for them. We try to be as deliberate as we can in circulating newsletters and information to those who subscribe to the mailing list. This enables you to pray intelligently for sister churches, their ministries, and for the association as a whole. It’s a small way to be able to “greet” one another.