We are Family
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:9-10)
I grew up in a large family. My seven siblings were — and still are — quite different from each other in countless ways — age, interests, opinions, etc. Growing up in a family of five boys, our differences frequently became heated; they sometimes still do. I remember having fistfights with my brother nearest in age to me when we were younger. We sometimes referred to ourselves as James and John (our first names), the “sons of thunder,” modeling the negative sides of two of Jesus’ early disciples. But we were family! In spite of our differences and disputes, we knew that we belonged to the Martin family. Today, I continue to care deeply for each of my brothers and sisters even though we are separated by great distances and seldom get to see each other.
Jesus teaches us that we who follow Christ are family. We belong to each other because we belong to Christ. He is the Unifier of the Church. The relationship bond between believers, Jesus taught, goes even deeper than blood ties. It is an eternal bond. On one occasion Jesus’ mother and brothers came to where He was ministering. They sent word for Jesus to come out to see them. Jesus asked, “Who are my mother and my brothers? … Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:31-35)
The Apostle Paul spoke of Christ as our barrier-breaker and bridge-builder. In Ephesians, he reminded the church, “You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19). This should be the mindset of all God’s people because it is God’s opinion of his church. We are family.
I have been a part of two IBC churches. The members of both churches have become my family. Some of my closest relationships in life are with people of different color, race, nationality, politics, education, and socio-economic background. We are family. Laurie and I host a home group each week made up of people from India, Nigeria, Germany, Afghanistan, the USA, and Great Britain. We are family. My most recent 6-month discipleship triad was with a Nigerian and an Indian. We are family.
This family relationship extends beyond our local church family. In Christ, all believers in every place belong to one another if they belong to Christ. We are indeed brothers and sisters in Christ. My work takes me almost weekly to different IBC churches around the world. I feel a connection with people in each of our churches because we are part of God’s family and also the IBC family.
The Apostle Paul regularly reminded churches in the first century that they were connected to each other and responsible for each other. He reminded the Corinthian church of its family duty to assist the Jerusalem church in a time of need: “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be an equality. At the present time your plenty will supply their need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality” (1 Corinthians 8:13). They were not independent churches but utterly dependent on God and interdependent upon one another. They were family.
The IBC is a family of churches. Every member church in the IBC has made a commitment to every other IBC church. It is a voluntary commitment expressed in what we call the IBC Membership Covenant. That covenant is built on a desired relationship of love and commitment first to Christ but also to each other. As you read the IBC Membership Covenant, ask yourself how you can express your love for other believers and other churches in the IBC.
IBC MEMBERSHIP COVENANT
The International Baptist Convention is a family of Christian churches. We commit to work together in a spirit of unity and partnership for the greater good of God’s global kingdom glory. We are living, autonomous churches under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, utterly dependent on Him. We are also interdependent churches that rely on and support one another in a spirit of voluntary Christian cooperation.
- AS A MEMBER CHURCH OF THE INTERNATIONAL BAPTIST CONVENTION WE will pursue, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, the following goals:
- To regard our sister churches with Christian love; to pray for each other; to aid one another; to be slow to take offense and ready to forgive in a spirit of Christ-like acceptance and reconciliation.
- To seek the advancement of our sister churches in knowledge, holiness and peace, walking together in Christian love.
- To contribute voluntarily and regularly to the financial and material support of the IBC and to the spread of the Christian gospel throughout all nations.
- To invite the Convention leadership to participate in special occasions as well as regular visits to foster good relationship and to assist in times of crisis and transition.
- To communicate regularly with the Convention by providing information of changes in pastoral leadership, completing the Annual Church Report in due time, and responding to or initiating other necessary communication.
- To participate in the life of the Convention by attending Convention-wide meetings when possible and serving in ministries of the Convention.
- To support fully the Mission and Vision of the IBC, to affirm its Summary of Basic Beliefs, and to respect its principles and practices.
- THE INTERNATIONAL BAPTIST CONVENTION will pursue, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, the following goals:
- To pray regularly and specifically for member churches and their leaders.
- To encourage and assist member churches to multiply congregations through church planting.
- To provide ministries to help strengthen member churches by assisting them to become or remain healthy and mobilized and helping in times of transition and conflict.
- To assist in empowering pastors and other leaders and potential leaders of member churches to be healthy and effective.
- To help member churches to build connections with other pastors, churches, and Great Commission partners for strategic Kingdom health and growth.
- To develop and provide resources—people, training, and financial—that enable member churches to carry out their God-given mission and vision.
The leaders of the IBC are seeking to provide support and challenge to all our churches this year. You can help us. Prayer, personal communication, financial and practical support, visits, cooperation in evangelism and ministry projects—all these ways and more help to strengthen the bonds to which we have committed ourselves.
I was encouraged recently when a person who has been attending our church for about six months said to me, “Your church doesn’t just talk about being a family. You really ARE a family.” It is my prayer that we will be that kind of family throughout the IBC. Do your part. We are family.
by Jimmy Martin