Historic Baptist Meeting

by Lori Overcash

Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was recently the site of an historic event in Baptist history. The first meeting of the International Baptist Network was held at Highland Park from September 26–29, 2004. There were delegates as well as speakers from the Baptist Bible Fellowship, World Baptist Fellowship, Southwide Baptist Fellowship, the Southern Baptist Convention, the General Association of Regular Baptists, and many other Baptist groups.

The International Baptist Network (IBN) is made up of Baptists who believe in the inerrancy of the Word of God, who adhere to the Georgia Baptist Confession, and who are committed to world evangelization. The purpose of this network is to promote harmony and cooperation among Baptists. It is not designed to replace already-existing fellowship groups, but rather to encourage and facilitate the cooperation of the various groups.

For several years, the various Baptist groups have given more attention to issues that separated them, rather than focusing on the spiritual ties that bind them together in Christ. This attitude has resulted in a spirit of legalism and isolationism. It has weakened the influence of the 30 million Baptists who are living in America.

In his message, Bill Monroe, pastor of Florence Baptist Temple, (Florence, South Carolina) and president of the IBN, chronicled the history of the Baptist movement. He began in England in the mid-1800s with Charles Haddon Spurgeon and his stand against heresy. He cited this stand as one worth dying for. He then moved to the 1920s and told of the stand that was taken by Christian leaders against the attack by liberals on the core doctrines of historic Christianity. Again this was a worthy stand that these leaders took.

But in recent years, he said, Baptists have taken less worthy stands, against other brothers in Christ. The division has come as a result of issues of personality, preference, and control. Dr. Monroe stated that if this trend continues, "Instead of becoming the exclamation point we could be, we are on the way to becoming an asterisk in the footnotes of Baptist history."

Recalling the events that led to the formation of the IBN, Dr. Monroe said: "At a meeting two years ago, some of us got together and said Enough! We be brethren and it's time to put the past behind us and begin to work together.'"

He reminded the audience, made up of pastors and Christian leaders from around the country, that other Bible-believing Baptists are not the enemy. Satan is the enemy and he is currently on the attack through the godless world system that he controls. There is an aggressive gay-rights movement that threatens families. Abortion is rampant with over 40 million babies killed in the last 30 years. Satan is behind the teaching of relativism and multi-culturalism. And he is constantly promoting his agenda through the entertainment and media establishment.

The message concluded with a personal glimpse into the speaker's heart: "I don't want to stand before God and try to explain why I wouldn't join hands with fellow Bible-believing Baptists to reach seven billion souls without hope, without Christ, and headed for a devil's hell." He challenged the various Baptist groups to put personalities and preferences aside and work together in unity to reach the world with the gospel.

The next meeting of the IBN will be held in 2006. Anyone wanting more information is invited to IBN's Website: www.thebaptistnetwork.com.

Lori Overcash is assistant manager of development at AMG

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