By Dr. Mark Jackson
THE GENERAL ASSOCIATION OF REGULAR BAPTISTS
Some Associations and individuals have expressed an interest in the world wide International Partnership of Fundamental Baptist Ministries brought into existence by the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches of Schaumburg, Illinois, USA. They have indicated that they are not sufficiently acquainted with that Association to make adequate decisions relative to affiliation with IPFBM.
This paper is written to familiarize such groups and individuals with the GARBC, its history and background and its convictions.
We are all aware that many names have meanings and that often those meanings are instructive. For instance, Eve means ‘the mother of all living’; Saul means ‘great’; and Paul means ‘small’. The Name for God, Jehovah Jireh, means ‘The LORD Who provides’, or in another translation I like, it means ‘God will take care of that!’ Do you have a need that is beyond you? God can take care of that!
Seventy years ago when the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches came into being and a name was decided upon, there was meaning in the name. In order to better understand us, allow me to dissect that name and give you the sense behind it.
In the beginning of the 20th century (1907) a Baptist Convention was formed in the USA called the Northern Baptist Convention. It was a large organization with about 16,000 churches in it. From early in its existence it was obvious that there was a doctrinal division among the churches. There were those who were fundamental and stood for the truths of the Bible and there were those who increasingly stood in opposition to the fundamental truths of the Word of God. That liberal theology quickly grew and began to make itself felt in a struggle for the control of the Convention. This happened at the time of the beginning of the great Fundamentalist/Modernist struggle of the 1920’s and 1930’s.
In the midst of the Convention there was a small group of true Bible believing Baptists who sought to retain a fundamental theology within the Convention and keep it on the track on which it had ostensibly begun.
Those attempts were booed, shouted down, laughed at and voted down in public meetings, until, in 1932, a small group of just 22 churches finally
decided that in order to be scriptural and spiritual they had to obey the Bible they loved, separate themselves from the increasingly liberal Convention and ‘come out from among them and be (ye) separate,…’ (II Corinthians 6:14 – 7:1).
On May 15, 1932 that little group formed the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.
Now you need to understand a little of our American history and geography. At the time of the American Civil War in the mid-1800’s, the country was divided over the issue of slavery. The South wanted slaves, the North wished to free the slaves. The country, thus divided, finally fought a civil war over the issue. At the same time, the Baptist Churches in the country were also divided over the matter and split into the Northern Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.
When we came into existence in 1932 there was confusion over the many differing Baptist groups that had come into existence over the years. In fact there are over 40 different Baptist denominational groups in America plus many thousands of churches who belong to no group whatsoever!!
Our leaders decided that we did not want to be geographically identified or restricted. So, instead of regionalizing, we declared ourselves to be GENERAL. That is, neither northern nor southern but geographically inclusive of all who stood for the truth anywhere in America. We would welcome churches from anywhere in the country, as long as they declared themselves free from liberal theology, non-charismatic, and committed to the viewpoint of the fundamentals of the Bible.
Those Fundamentals that we believed, ultimately gave rise to a book by that name – The Fundamentals-, written in 1909, which was a compilation of Bible messages by leading fundamentalists of the day. That book is still available today. Those doctrines could be basically put in the following form:
• The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible
• The Deity of Jesus Christ
• The Necessity of the Blood in Redemption
• The Physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ
• The Bodily and Personal Return of Christ to Earth
So, geographically, we were the GENERAL association.
You will notice that we did not choose for our name the name Convention. Implicit in that word, here in our country, is the idea of control, direction, or dictation. The dictionary says that it means, “an agreement for the regulation of matters between all parties”.
Our experience with the Northern Baptist Convention led us to see that there were, in fact, controls and regulations that were being brought to bear upon the churches and they struggled with a controlling hierarchy. We believed that, historically, Baptist Churches were independent and sovereign and that nothing or no one could dictate to a local Baptist Church what it should believe or do or where it should send its missionaries or its funds, or whom it should call for its pastor.
The old Convention controlled the missions program of the churches and money for missions support had to be sent to the Convention which then dictated which missionaries were chosen to receive it. Thus they not only handled the funds but also controlled them and the local churches had no say in the matter of whom their money supported!!
It was natural for men who rejected the gospel of grace to want to control such large funds and soon they were sending out missionaries who were unbelievers with only a social gospel to offer. In essence, the local churches were divorced from the missions process except to send in the money!
Therefore, because of such practices, we moved away from the use of the name Convention and chose the word Association to describe what we believed best fit the biblical case for the kind of fellowship that should exist among believers of common doctrinal agreement.
Furthermore, through the years we have not thought of ourselves as a Denomination. The same sense of control or domination of the churches seems inherent in that word also. However, the term is not altogether wrong for we do believe that there is a common ‘denominator’ among us, such as our belief in and subscription to the inerrancy of the Word of God and the true Deity and eternality of the Lord Jesus Christ. But we still resist the use of the use of the word denomination.
The word Association means, “an organization of persons having a common interest”. Translated into local churches, we feel that description satisfies the picture we want to portray, of ‘the voluntary fellowship of churches having a common interest’.
Thus churches, wishing to identify themselves with a larger group of like-minded believers, voluntarily agree to the Statement of Faith and vote to associate with others of similar convictions. It may continue to do that as long as it wishes and may leave that association of its own voluntary will at any time and for whatever reason it may choose. When we say the churches are independent, we mean it!
It is in that same frame of reference that we have sought to create the International Partnership of Fundamental Baptist Ministries, thus to make possible a place of fellowship among those Associations having a common interest and theology and Commission, but with no hierarchical control over anyone.
Therefore, we are the GENERAL ASSOCIATION.
In the midst of what amounted to many other Baptist groups in America who were a variety of good, bad and indifferent, theologically, we looked back over history and determined that we had not changed from what Baptists believed.
We were regular Baptists. In other words, we had not changed. We were the regular ones. Again I refer to the dictionary for a definition: “formed, built, arranged or ordered according to some established rule, law, principle or type”. And, of course, for Baptists that rule is the unchanging Word of the Living God, the Bible, and we formed and established the Association based on the foundation of those Bible principles.
The Northern Baptist Convention had changed… they had moved theologically left and we were the ones who had not changed. This was not something that made us proud, merely that much more determined than ever to be the ones who stood on the timeless and unchanging truths of the Scriptures. Thus, we were REGULAR Baptists as compared to those who now were departing from the standard to positions that, to us, were apostate. You could call the old Baptist Convention IRREGULAR if you wish.
The fact is that the term Regular was in use in describing our kind of Baptists for a few years even before we chose it. The Ohio State fundamental Baptist fellowship preceded our national organization by four years and called themselves the Ohio Association of Regular Baptist Churches as did also the Grand Rapids Association of Regular Baptist Churches in Michigan. Since we were of the same conviction and the name applied, we chose to use it as well.
Time seems to have justified those early decisions. Conventions are often dictated by the rule of men, they often degenerate to the level of their leaders and far too often that movement is toward lesser theological convictions and soteriological purity.
So now we are the GENERAL ASSOCIATION OF REGULAR…
In the early days of our fellowship, ecumenicity and interdenominationalism were words that were almost strange to our vocabulary. With the passing of time, however, both have loomed large on the horizon and become monsters eating away at the fabric of fundamental convictions, of purity of doctrine, and of determination to maintain a strong Baptist heritage.
The ecumenical church is growing quietly and stealthily. It will, of course, come to fruition under an antichrist and its end will be terrible. It demands on the part of its adherents the sacrifice of long held and precious beliefs until you arrive at the lowest possible common denominator of doctrine. The final form is one of an absolute minimum of doctrine, a Bible rejected, and a Christ denied.
Baptists have been among the few who have sought to stand for an absolutely authoritative Bible, inspired of God, given by what we know as verbal, plenary inspiration and that it is trustworthy in that authority in all matters of faith and practice.
Over the years those doctrines have come to be categorized as Baptist Distinctives, although most of us recognize that they are all biblical truths which we as Baptists recognize and claim as our doctrinal foundation. I will list them once again in this paper just as a reminder of those things that are, taken together, unique to our Baptist convictions. You will note that the first letters of each item form the word BAPTISTS.
• B Biblical Authority
• A Autonomy of the Local Church
• P Priesthood of the Believer
• T Two Ordinances: baptism by immersion and the Lord’s Table
• I Individual Soul Liberty
• S Saved, Baptized Church Membership
• T Two Officers: pastors and deacons
• S Separation of Church and State
The printing division of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, REGULAR BAPTIST PRESS, prints an available brochure on the subject with descriptive statements and textual proof texts of the biblical character of these blessed truths to which we subscribe.
So, now, we are the GENERAL ASSOCIATION OF REGULAR BAPTIST…
This word is also one of our very descriptive names and needs to be emphasized in understanding our Association. We are all that the first four words of our name implies but we are, first and foremost, an Association of Churches. Sometimes when speaking of us, people will refer to us as the ‘GARB” and omit the ‘C’. It is quick and easy but fails to underscore one of our great strengths. Sometimes we hear, and unfortunately even use, the acrostic as a noun, referring to it as ‘the garb’.
Some of us try to be sticklers for the use of the full and correct acronym G-A-R-B-C, believing that it most accurately describes what we are: an Association of CHURCHES. Some Baptist Associations allow for personal or individual memberships for people who are still within churches who do not wish to fellowship with us. We have taken the position that we are a fellowship of independent Baptist Churches and do not allow for the inclusion of individuals as constituents. If they are that interested in us, we heartily suggest they become part of a church that IS in fellowship with us.
Yes, we are General in our geographical scope; we are an Association in our structure; we are Regular in our unchanged doctrinal stance; we are Baptists by biblical conviction but of equal importance, we are an Association of CHURCHES! We feature the local church……So don’t forget the little C on the end of our name. It stands for Churches!
One of our leaders a long time ago said ‘There are no great men in the GARBC, just a great God!’ Over the years there were a few times certain men may have had ambitious notions of grandeur or power, but our focus was on churches not men. Those kind of men often soon reveal themselves for what they are or the Lord just puts them on a shelf and they drift off into obscurity. Most of them are no longer with us!
Having said that, there were men who were godly leaders among us who we believe were directed of God as our encouragers to press on in the convictions that we held and kept us on a spiritual course of faithfulness to Christ and the Scriptures. We thank God for those men. By the grace of God they led in the right spirit and are remembered with joy and respect.
So, now, we are THE GENERAL ASSOCIATION OF REGULAR BAPTIST CHURCHES.
We try to be careful even about the first little three letter word at the beginning – THE. We don’t pronounce it like it was ‘THEE’ as in ‘THEE ONLY ASSOCIATION…’. It is just ‘the’ without putting emphasis on the fact that we might think we are the only ones who are right or that we have all the answers. In fact, we have been accused by our critics of saying that we are the only ones who will be in Heaven! Nothing could be farther from the truth.
We are just redeemed saints of God, serving the Savior and walking on the way to our blessed home in Heaven. And there will be many others there beside us. We do feel, however, that as Baptists we have sought for and found a proper biblical understanding and interpretation of truth and we do believe those things have been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit of God straight from the Word of God. We sincerely trust that you believe those things along with us.
So, yes, names are important. We stand somewhat uniquely on the horizon of church history being among very few Baptist groups who hold to the pretribulational rapture of the church and such things as the 24-hour day creation of the world and the universe and man. We are separatist in our philosophy of fellowship and doctrinal purists when it comes to the Bible.
We look for fellowship with those of like precious faith in the Book and in its Christ.
If I can be of further help in answering questions about this group of independent fundamental Baptist Churches, please feel free to write to me. I would be happy to communicate with you.
Rev. Chris Hindal
Director of International Ministries
General Association Of Regular Baptist Churches
1300 North Meacham Road
Schaumburg, Illinois 60173 USA
Telephone 1- 847.843.1600