by Terry Basham
When you’re traveling this great land called America and you see the golden arches of McDonalds (I know you’re salivating), you basically know what to expect! They will have Big Macs, fries, Coca Cola, bad Coffee and apples pies – there will be some variables in the size and amenities of the restaurant itself but you’ll basically get what you’ve come to expect when you visit McDonalds. The reason for this predictability is that it is a Franchise. Every franchise location is held to the same ‘rigorous’ standard, a standard established by corporate research and perfected by test restaurants. The most incredible thing is that when you eat a Big Mac on the eastern seaboard or here in lovely Lawton – it tastes basically the same.
As you are traveling the nation you will find advertisements for Independent Baptist Churches; these may be internet listings or the results of a Google search. One thing is certain about visiting Independent Baptist Churches, you never know what you’ll FIND IN ONE! They are all different; Musical styles, dress styles, preaching styles and even the décor can be anything from high church formal to bluegrass and bib overalls!
What are the franchise marks of an independent Baptist church? It seems to me that they are found in Acts 2.42 “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
The apostolic doctrine, a true church of Christ will give due attention to the doctrines laid out for us by Christ and the Apostles. Systematic doctrinal teaching is vital to the health of a church. There are basically ten major doctrinal headings and from time to time it doesn’t hurt to haul off and preach a series on one of them! Don’t fall into the trap of taking perpetual pot shots at false teachers. (I’m not too sure I practice this like I should.) Rather take up a point of doctrine and teach what WE DO BELIEVE!
Fellowship, too often in our churches we don’t have time to fellowship. John MacArthur in the opening session of the Shepherds Conference 2014 gave a lecture on “Fellowship” and how that this modern culture has made it possible for people to exist in a virtual world, with perceived fellowship not real physical fellowship. To have fellowship, there must be interaction with people, Real people, people who are present and connected one to another by Christ.
Breaking of Bread, in my mind this is Communion. I don’t know what you think about the frequency of Communion but I feel like more is better than less. Communion offers to us a time of personal examination, congregational examination and a corporate reminder that we are ALL here, together because of the Death of Christ!
Prayers, praying together. A prayer meeting? Yes and the voicing of prayers by the men of a church. Churches should pray and pray often. They should be sure to Pray to God. I have heard so many little “Prayer Sermons” that now they make me sick. Pray to God, seek his face and help! DO not pray for the benefit of the congregation. I met a man once who told me that he visited a church for a while and they called on him to pray week after week. After a month or so, a man came and said to him, “We want to make you a deacon!” He asked them why? “Because we love the way you pray!” That is so stupid… Prayer is talking to God – praising him and beseeching him to extend his power to the meeting of God’s People.
I think these are about all we can expect from our “Franchisees”. While there may be localized variants these are the constants – but if you find them to be absent, then they are probably not “Franchisees” – they are pretenders, riding on the name of another…
by Terry Basham