Just as there are many different kinds of people, there are many different kinds of churches. What does it mean that a church is Baptist, instead of Charismatic or Evangelical or Lutheran or Presbyterian or Roman Catholic?
God matters to Baptists. We do not worship the Bible, but the Bible matters to us because God matters to us. We see the Bible as God’s Word, with an authority beyond human traditions and belief systems. There is freedom in the Baptist church for individual people to interpret God’s Word and live according to their own conscience. Just as each person has the freedom and responsibility to look into God’s Word for themselves, no person or organization outside our church has the authority to force us to believe or practice our faith in a particular way. Baptists value the faith community, and individual interpretation takes place in and is affirmed by the church.
God is strong and powerful, the Creator of all things visible and invisible. But God has consistently refused to coerce people to believe, or trust, or worship him. God has designed the world in such a way that people have choices to make. It is called the Christian faith because it is a matter of faith, not of 100% certainty or proof. Baptist churches are faith communities made up of people who have themselves chosen to follow Jesus and to be baptized, so we do not baptize babies.
In the Baptist church, we do not put ourselves under the authority of popes or bishops. God’s mission has a church. We believe that every person has an important place in the church because they have an important role to play in God’s mission. Men and women, old and young, black and brown and white, poor and rich: all are welcome and all are needed to help the church become what God intends it to be. We believe all people are made in God’s image, and we recognize that God gifts every believer for service and leadership in the church.
The heart of Christianity is God and his grace. God’s grace is most clearly and fully revealed in Jesus Christ. Baptist faith revolves primarily around the good news of Jesus. We believe that his life, death, and resurrection change everything. We interpret the whole Bible in light of Jesus. We practice two ordinances, which we call ordinances because they were ordained by God. Baptism is the conscious identification of a believer with the death and resurrection of Jesus, and marks a believer’s entry into the church. Communion is a remembering or keeping in mind of Jesus and his good news, as we regularly partake of bread and wine in obedience to Christ’s command. Both ordinances reconnect us to Christ, to the faith community, and to the global church.
Baptists believe in the separation of church and state. We believe the government should not prefer or establish any religion, but see to the freedom of all people to worship God according to their conscience. Baptists never seek out preferential treatment unequal to how the government treats anyone else. We believe Christians should have strong personal convictions and live their faith out in real life, while respecting all people as made in God’s image. Freedom means we respect and allow for the right of others to disagree with us, and even take the posture of learning from those different from us.
© 2018, Pastor Jon Wymer. All rights reserved.