In part 1 I mentioned that we may be entering a post-denominational age. Well, that ought to be good news for Baptists! Baptists are not a denomination. We are a movement of believers who are suspicious of ecclesiastical authority and creedal fiat. We were post-moderns before anyone knew what that was! Our leader is Jesus, our creed is the Bible, and our community of faith is the local church.
The rest of the world may not understand our polity, insisting that we are indeed a denomination, but real Baptists know better. Baptists have long been suspicious of denominationalism, even to the extent that early Baptists in America were quite reluctant to cooperate even with one another, fearful of diluting the autonomy of the local church.
But many of us, though by no means all of us, eventually put aside our fears so that we could begin cooperating with one another for the sake of missions. Cooperation was based not on creed or council, but on a burning desire to do more together than we could do separately. We designed networks of local churches who would work together, but we emphatically resisted denominationalism and tenaciously held onto the autonomy of the local church.
It seems to me that the networking model of Baptist cooperation is a model that fits post-modern culture. Though we may mourn the possibility that denominationalism is gasping its last breath, Baptists should be well-positioned for our age. After all, we are not a denomination. We who cooperate with one another are a network.
Unfortunately, some Baptists are not comfortable with a network model. I will talk about this in part 3.