A few months ago I had the privilege of attending a 3-day workshop on "Strategic Alliances" sponsored by COMIBAM ("Cooperación Misionera Iberoamericana" or "Ibero-american Missionary Cooperation"), an initiative to facilitate the cooperation of evangelical missionary organizations and movements in all of the countries of Latin America, as well as Spain and Portugal. At this meeting, there was a cross-denominational representation of evangelical workers from various countries. Out of a group of about thirty, I was one of two from the United States.
The working definition of "Strategic Alliance" we used was the following:
A close working relationship between individuals and/or organizations that agree to work together for a specific purpose because they can accomplish more working together than separately.
There are many different types and degrees of Strategic Alliances. The SBC Cooperative Program, for example, is, in my opinion, one very effective Strategic Alliance. Local ministry teams on the mission field are another type of Strategic Alliance. The important thing is that all over the world, among the larger Body of Christ, there are countless opportunities for Strategic Alliances that allow us as God’s people, to "accomplish more working together than separately."
The Roman Catholic Church is, in a sense, one giant worldwide Strategic Alliance. In addition to the many important doctrinal errors they embrace, which, in in my opinion, essentially invalidate a good part of the authenticity of their supposed Gospel witness, I feel that the monolithic Roman Catholic ecclesiological system in the end squelches the creativity and spiritual vitality that flow out of the baptistic or "free church" concepts of local church autonomy and soul competency.
However, the RCC in some ways has a distinct advantage over many of us as evangelicals, in that, their "universal" concept of the Church and its worldwide organization allow them in some aspects to have a leg up on us in wise stewardship of resources. If, for example, the material needs of one parish are especially pressing, the rest of the diocese will contribute from their overall budget to help out. By the same token, if the needs of the "Church" in one part of the world are especially pressing, those who call the shots at the Vatican have the ability to see that an appropriate amount of help arrives from their vast treasure of resources to those who, at least theoretically, need it most.
As disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, I believe it is a given that we should strive to be the best stewards possible of the resources he entrusts to us for the extension of his Kingdom. The Roman Catholic system, while offering some important advantages, in the end, due to the reasons mentioned above, is, in my opinion, not the best solution. For many of the same reasons, I believe that the organizational ecumenical movement embodied in the World Council of Churches is not the best solution either.
Up to recently, we as Southern Baptists participated as members of the Baptist World Alliance. In any Strategic Alliance, the time comes when one must decide whether what is gained is greater than what is given up. If I have understood correctly, those who made the decision to withdraw from the BWA did so for many of the same reasons we as Southern Baptists do not participate in the WCC, that is, a lack of overall doctrinal and philisophical compatibility to justify such cooperation. As I do not have access to all of the information that went into making this decision, I prefer to withhold judgment at this time as to whether it was a good decision or not.
What I do believe is that, in order to be the best stewards possible of God’s Kingdom resources, we as Southern Baptists need to do everything possible towards becoming less isolationist and more "World Christians" in our mindset. We must continue to be willing to dialogue with Baptist Unions and Conventions in other parts of the world about wise allocation of resources. We must be open to their suggestions. In my opinion, we must also continue to dialogue and cooperate with other Evangelical organizations, with headquarters in the USA or elsewhere, with a view towards "accomplishing more working together than separately." As mentioned in a previous post, we are all "playing on the same team" with the same ultimate goal in mind. Thus, it behooves us to think together as a team, and allocate our joint resources in such a way so as the overall objectives of the team are most benifitted. We need to seek for more and more ways to think creatively "out of the box," with more and more of a heart to see the entire world won for Christ, and more and more disiciples made from more and more peoples of the world.
As pointed out on another previous post, there are also pitfalls along the way, such as unhealthy dependency, to be avoided (see also Ken Sorrell’s posts on the R.I.N. Strategy of Missions). What we don’t need to do, though, as a result, is "stick our heads in the sand," continually narrowing our parameters of cooperation with other Great Commission Christians, defending our denominational distinctives, and building up our denominational and many times ethno-centric programs.