Bert Langley
Director of Missions

Why We Should Belong

"FIRST, the cooperative efforts of churches working together derive from the divine human relationship established by God's creation of the human race in His image. God's image serves as the essential, although sinfully marred, nature of humanity. Thus, the rationale behind a group of churches associating together has as its ultimate Purpose the restoration of humanity's marred nature. Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, a collaboration of churches serves as a tool for the restoration of the divine-human relationship. The key to the effectiveness of this restoration is the personal relationship between individuals as Persons. In other words, a group of churches may cooperate together, but it takes an individual under the leadership of the Holy Spirit to lead another person to Christ which restores the individual's divine-human relationship. Although churches may cooperate together, that cooperation serves only as a tool of the Holy Spirit who uses individual Christians within those churches to bring other persons to Christ."

A SECOND POINT is that a group of churches coming together in whatever form, be that a local association, or a state or national convention, draws its reality from the existence of local, autonomous congregations. This local autonomy implies that any formal organization of a group of churches in a cooperative effort, in some measure' must derive its essence from the nature of the church as revealed in Scripture. As one considers the collaboration of local, autonomous congregations, one must keep in mind that the New Testament does not present a standard form after which the present day church may model itself. Yet, the New Testament is normative in the associative aspects of the church, not as a Pattern, but as a principle." In addition, "One must consider that the efforts of churches cooperating in service and ministry originate from the local congregation. Only as autonomous churches voluntarily create a formal organization, be that the local association, or a state or national convention, can that newly created organization come into being. In this manner, as the local churches voluntarily cooperate to create a formal organization, the service or ministry performed by that organization must be determined by the local church and its sister churches. Caution must be taken to insure that what is biblical and spiritual in the concept of churches cooperating together should be preserved, but whatever becomes traditional or expedient should be expendable and perhaps eliminated."

"A THIRD POINT to be considered is that as a group of churches cooperate together the question must be asked, 'What is the basis of their relationship in the cooperative endeavor?' The New Testament basis for the collaboration of local autonomous churches is the spiritual relationship their members have with Christ. This spiritual relationship is both personal, as in individual salvation, and cooperative, as in the body of believers in the local church. For this reason self sufficiency, be it an individual or a local congregation' should not exist under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. As there are no solitary Christians, so there are no solitary congregations. As the individual Christian functions within a local fellowship of believers, the local congregation also must share in a larger fellowship of interdependent congregations."

"As an expression of the local autonomous church, the principle of interdependent congregations cooperatively associating together may be discerned. In addition, it must be kept in mind that the purpose of interdependent cooperation is the restoration of the divine-human relationship. As churches work together for this purpose, ministries and services are performed by local congregations that contribute to the restoration of the divine-human relationship. Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, these ministries and services tend to assume an organized form for the purpose of encouraging mutual congregational care and cooperative service. The presence of the Holy Spirit, in the individual believer, the local congregation, and the cooperative efforts of multiple congregations, creates a spiritual unity that results in services and ministries through those local congregations. Thus, what appears as an organization of interdependent and cooperative churches is in reality a living and Spirit led organism."

  1. The theological foundation for churches working together cooperatively finds its basis in the Christian doctrines of humanity and the nature of the church. The doctrine of humanity restricts the form and purpose of a group of cooperating congregations as a redemptive group. The evangelistic nature of the Christian church lends itself toward cooperative efforts of interdependent local congregations."

  2. "Any formal organization of interdependent churches be that as an association, or a state or national convention, should not exercise authority over the local, autonomous congregation. Rather, it should encourage mutual congregational care and cooperative ministries and services that contribute to the Purpose of restoration of the divine-human relationship."

  3. "The formal organization of a group of local, autonomous churches is not intended to be a denominational agency but to exist as a Spirit led organism composed of interdependent congregations. The cooperative endeavors of local autonomous congregations must be identified by and originate from those same congregations. At that Point the association, as well as the state and national conventions, may be solicited to support the ministries and services of those interdependent churches functioning under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. When the organization exceeds the limits of personal and cooperative relationships, it exceeds its function as an instrument of the Holy Spirit and ceases to be a Spirit led organism."

*Thanks to F. Russell Bennett, Jr and his work "The Fellowship of Kindred Minds."

2009 The Late Dr. Rodrick E. Conerly

2014 Reintroduced by Gary Mitchell