Why Baptist?

What is a Baptist congregation anyways?

We call ourselves by the term “Baptist.” Unfortunately, some have been turned off by this name and assumed things about our church that are not accurate. So why do we self-identify as a Baptist church? First let’s look some of the reasons one could think that we are Baptist, but are actually not true:

It is not because we believe that Baptists are the only true Christians. We praise God that many Christians in other denominations earnestly believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, therefore, we trust that many people in those denominations are true Christians. We sincerely hope that God blesses other churches that believe the true gospel, even though we might disagree with them on smaller points. On Sunday mornings we routinely pray for specific evangelical churches in the area. We pray that they would bear fruit and grow. Most of the churches that we pray for, actually, happen not to be Baptist.

It is not because we agree with everything that all Baptists have ever done and everything that is associated with the term “Baptist.” Sadly there have been some Baptists, with whom we might agree concerning structure of the church, but with whom we sharply disagree when it comes to many issues, such as slavery, segregation, and even the gospel itself.

So why are we Baptist? There are two aspects of belief and practice which have—historically speaking—distinguished Baptist churches from other churches that believe the same gospel. They are (1) the belief that the church’s final authority resides in the members of the congregation and (2) the belief that only those who profess to be Christians should be baptized and admitted into church membership.

What does this look like practically? It looks like our practice of not baptizing infants. Some gospel-believing churches baptize infants with the idea that they will one day profess faith in Christ. We feel that it is more keeping with Scriptures to wait until the person consciously trusts in Christ. And then we baptize them. We also have member meetings where church members vote on critical issues in the life of the church. We vote to bring someone in as a new member, and we vote to remove them when they leave. We vote to bring a new pastor and to affirm other leaders. We do this based on the belief that the church members hold the final authority, not the pastors, elders, or deacons.

We would like to think that these distinguishing marks have implications in other areas. But what we want to stress here is that, by and large, a Baptist church that believes firmly in the gospel will not be very different than a non-Baptist church that also believes firmly in the gospel. Nevertheless, because what we believe about baptism and about church government is important, we feel that self-identifying as a Baptist church is being honest about who we are.

Additional Resources:

Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches- John Hammett
Church Policy – Edited. Mark Dever
Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ – Edited. Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright
Greenbelt Baptist Church