As I meet new people around the Salem area I’m often asked one question: “How is your church different?” It is a fair question. There are many different types of churches found in our area and to many people I’m sure the differences between those churches seem superficial or even hard to understand.
As far as people are concerned the membership and even leadership of Cornerstone is no different than any other group of people. We have men and women, Dads and Moms, children, those of retirement age, and those in the workforce. We have hobbies, interests, and even problems we deal with. We are not perfect and we make no claim to be.
As far as a church structure is concerned we do think we do things a little differently, but for a biblical reason. Over these next articles I’d like to show you why we do things differently than most churches and let you make an opinion for yourself.
The first thing that sets our church apart from many others in this area is that we are totally independent. That means that we are not a part of any denomination, convention, association, or fellowship, and we do that for a purpose.
How would you like it if you were told where you had to live, what kind of groceries you had to buy, or the kind of car you had to drive? As Americans I don’t think many of us would be keen to that form of governing. However, that is exactly the position many churches who are part of a denomination, convention, association, or fellowship find themselves in. The church hierarchy tells the church in Salem who will be their next pastor, what missionaries they must support, and what kind of special projects they can or cannot take on. Even the most lenient of groups exercises some control over the local congregation.
This type of this does not happen at Cornerstone Baptist Church. One hundred percent of the decisions made are made right here in Marion County by the church membership. We have no group or person over us other than the Lord Jesus Christ and no creed or code other than His Holy Word.
Perhaps you’ve heard in the last months of churches leaving “mainstream” denominations because of doctrinal shifts by either the local church or the national group. Typically these matters turn into protracted court cases over the use of the church name, property, and finances. This will never happen at Cornerstone because we are not a member of any such group and only those who are members of our local church have any say in the direction we go.
In the New Testament we see the principle of an independent church being taught and believed by early Christians. 76 times in the New Testament the word church is used. In the vast majority of those times the Bible is referencing a particular local church (i.e. “in the church that was in Antioch…” Acts 13:1b).
If we study the writings of the Apostle Paul we see that he, by and large, wrote to a single local church or a church’s pastor. The only exception is the epistle to the Galatians which he wrote to a group of churches. Even in this instance Paul uses the plural churches to describe the assemblies and does not classify them all as one single church (Galatians 1:2).
Just take a moment to look at the writings of Paul and see who he wrote to. Included are the churches in Rome (Romans), Corinth ( 1 & 2 Corinthians), Ephesus (Ephesians), Philippi (Philippians), Colosse (Colossians), Thessalonica (1 & 2 Thessalonians), and to pastors in Ephesus (1 & 2 Timothy), Crete (Titus), and possibly Colosse (Philemon). These churches were able to ordain leaders, send and support missionaries, decide on doctrinal disputes, and practice church discipline all without the aid of some nationalized group.
We believe, just like the saint in the New Testament did, that a church should be an independent body, free from outside interests or control. We have a firm practical and biblical foundation to stand on when it comes to this matter and will continue to make decisions based on biblical principles from right here in Salem and Marion County.