When I was growing up my immediate family was the so called black sheep of the clan, as we were Methodist while everyone else was Southern Baptist. The reason for this was that my mother was Methodist and my dad was a non-believer. So we went to the Methodist church. In fact, we went nearly every time the door was opened. But whenever we were visiting the rest of the family we always went to a Southern Baptist church. Even though the gospel I heard in the Methodist church was the same gospel I heard in the Southern Baptist church, they just did church differently, and sometimes were just a little too stuffy for my taste. So I grew up with a bit of prejudice towards Southern Baptists.
Fast forward to college and I was an irregular church attender, but still, when I went to church, I went to the Methodist church; and made the audacious statement that there were two things I would never be...a Baptist and an insurance salesman. In my thinking, at the time, they were both about the same.
Well, you guessed it, in the Lord's timing I became both a Baptist and an insurance salesman. If anyone tells you the Lord does not have a sense of humor or enjoys irony, send them to me. I did not become a Christian until after we had joined a Southern Baptist church. The reason we joined a SB church was that we could not find a Methodist church that preached out of the Bible, and even though I was not yet a real Christian, I thought I was; and wanted to hear the Bible preached out of when I went to church. So, for most of my Christian life I have been part of a Southern Baptist church.
Not being brought up Southern Baptist I have never had that inbred allegiance to the Southern Baptist Convention, like one would have for being a native Texan. I had always considered myself first and foremost a conservative evangelical who happened to be Southern Baptist. I did leave the SBC for almost three years and helped plant a Christian and Missionary Alliance church, but when the time to leave came I went back to the SBC.
This brings us up to now. When we started Grace Covenant Church in June 2007 I had no particular design for us to be Southern Baptist, or any other flavor for that matter, but I believed that at some point we would need to be affiliated with a group larger than us because I don't believe in Lone Ranger churches, and, honestly, most churches are not big enough to do all that they need or want to do for missions and evangelism. Also, when we started we had two familes that were anti-SBC. When we began, affiliation was not a major priority as our main concerns were to preach the word, establish the church, and get the church on firm footing.
The two families that were anti-SBC have left, and after two years we believed the church was at a point that we needed to become affiliated. So we set some criteria and they are as follows:
Doctrinal compatibility and stability. Does the group as a whole have a high view of God and Scripture?
Ecclesiological compatibility. Do we hold to a common view of the church, do we hold the same view on the ordinances?
Missions/Evangelism both here in the States and abroad, not neglecting one or the other.
Missions/Evangelism here in Texas.
Local church autonomy.
Seminary training by affiliated seminaries, who hold to the same doctrinal standards, to train the next generation of pastors.
Resources that are available for the local church.
Gospel partnership opportunities.
Although there are many fine and godly groups and denominations to affiliate with, when we applied this set of criteria to the different groups and denominations it became obvious to us that all roads led to the Southern Baptist Convention.
The SBC certainly is not perfect, we don't expect them to be, but they do fit us the best, and we hope our partnership with them is mutually profitable for the glory of God and the expansion of His kingdom.