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What Is a Baptist?

Updated: Mar 20

Most people have heard of and seen a Baptist church. However, here in the northland, we are definitely in the minority. Many who have grown up in and around more traditional Christian denominations might wonder what we’re all about. It’s easy to form an understanding about a certain group that isn’t entirely accurate.


I know that some people are concerned to go to a Baptist church for fear that it’s going to be one of those “weird” churches, or some kind of cult group. Sometimes people have an impression that we are a very strict, legalistic bunch.


In reality, Baptists have a long and rich heritage throughout church history. Some believe that the Baptists are an offshoot from other Protestant denominations; but actually, our history predates the Protestant Reformation. Historians have identified those who held Baptist beliefs all the way back to the first century, and the times of the apostles. (Read the short booklet, The Trail of Blood for more information on Baptist history).


A well-known 19th-century British preacher, Charles Spurgeon wrote, “We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. We did not commence our existence at the Reformation; we were Reformers before Luther or Calvin were born. We never came from the Church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the apostles themselves. We have always existed from the very days of Christ, and our principles, sometimes veiled and forgotten, like a river which may travel underground for a little season, have always had honest and holy adherents.” (From The New Park Street Pulpit, Volume VII, page 225)


In United States history, some of the first Baptists in America founded the colony of Rhode Island as a place of religious liberty. They were active during the War for Independence and were a driving force behind the Constitutional Bills of Rights—especially the first amendment. (Another great resource on the influence of Baptists in American history is America in Crimson Red, by Dr. James Beller)


Perhaps you’re thinking, “That’s all very interesting history, but you still haven’t answered the question, ‘What is a Baptist?’”


There are several beliefs that identify us as Baptist. We do not hold to the name because we belong to a denomination. In fact, all Baptists churches are to one degree or another independent. There is no “Baptist Headquarters” or “Baptist Pope.” Each local church governs itself independently under the Word of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, according to the model found in the New Testament.


We identify as Baptists because we hold to a set of beliefs that have historically been held by Baptists. We identify with a body of doctrine, not a denomination. These doctrines comprise what we call “Baptist Distinctives.”


In a nutshell, Baptists are Biblicists. We believe the Bible and interpret it literally. It is our ultimate authority for everything we believe and practice.


We don’t hold to church tradition above the Bible. When the two come into conflict, we follow what the Bible says. Neither do we put personal experience above the authority of God’s Word. Sometimes people’s spiritual experiences contradict Scripture. We always side with what the Bible teaches. We also don’t lift up human reasoning or scholarship above the Scriptures. It isn’t just another ancient piece of literature for us to question, correct, or critique. It is the inspired Word of God, and it bears all the authority of God Himself.


That’s why, when you come to a Baptist church like ours, here’s basically what you can expect: an emphasis upon the preaching and teaching of the Bible.


We have some music and singing. At our church, we love singing the old hymns together. Our instrumentation is mainly piano music. The truths we sing are exciting, but our music isn't overly loud, and is always done in a reverent way. You won’t find any dancing or rolling around in the aisles. Singing is an important aspect of our services, as we seek to honor and praise the Lord.


We also have times of prayer as a church. Our folks have burdens and prayer requests like any other congregation. And we have times when we share those with one another, and take time to worship God and intercede for one another in prayer.


Baptist churches also love good Christian fellowship. Many of our folks arrive early and leave late, just to enjoy meaningful conversations with others in the church. We love to have fun together, do activities together, and especially eat together! We take our potlucks pretty seriously! :)


Yet, more important than anything else we do, and the characteristic that sets us apart from many other churches, is the emphasis upon the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. We have four different services every week, where we gather to hear and be fed from the Bible.


The sermons aren’t just a time for stories or little inspirational talks. We don’t get too bogged down in politics (although we certainly don’t shy away from them where the Bible has something to say). You won’t come and hear a boring lecture, or a dusty Bible history lesson.


We open up the Word, and we read what is says. And then through the course of the sermon, we explain exactly what the Scripture means, and show how those eternal principles and truths affect our lives today. Our overriding desire each and every time we meet is to “Preach the Word” (II Timothy 4:2).


People get enough man-made opinion in their lives, everywhere from social media to cable news. We’re not interested in what some other person thinks about the issues of life. Here’s what people really need today: “Thus saith the Lord.” What does God have to say about it?

If you want real Bible answers to life’s problems; if you have an appreciation for hearing God’s Word taught accurately in a way that will connect with your life; if you would like a church that isn’t concerned so much with large crowds or big offerings or being politically correct, as it is with faithfully declaring God’s eternal truth…you’ll like what you’ll find at Bible Baptist Church.


What can you expect if you come to a church like ours? A whole lot of the Bible. Everything we believe and everything we do ties back to God’s Word.


What’s great about that is that the Bible doesn’t change. It’s sad how so many churches are changing everything. Changing their music, changing their preaching, and even changing their beliefs! Truth doesn’t change. That doesn’t make our church old-fashioned, as in 50 years ago. I believe a commitment to God’s Word makes our beliefs timeless, as in 2,000 years ago!


So why not give us a try? You’ll love what our growing church has to offer. Other churches may have mor programs and activities. But we have it where it counts—in the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

 

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