What is a Baptist?
What is in a name? A name is a label. It helps us identify and organize new information. Manufactures use general labels to help us identify products by their content. Written on all the cans of sardines at the store is “sardines.” Hence, we know what is in the can. Next, they add modifiers to that general label that tell us how the sardines are prepared. It might be with olive oil, with lemon, with mustard, with water, with hot sauce, or with tomato. Now, if we are not too picky or just assume all sardines are created equal we are satisfied with these labels. However, there is another label that we often look for and it is a label that is often the largest on the product. It is a label that we associate with quality. That is the manufacture’s name. It is a name we have grown to trust because we have experience with that brand.
Now imagine going to a place where you do not know the language. None of the brand names are familiar to you. How do you know what are in all those boxes on the shelves? How do you know which one is best? Well, you might use a translator app or a dictionary to find out what is inside the box but that still does not tell you about the quality. So you might try to sound out the brand names and see if any sound familiar or safe. I remember when we moved to Central Asia. I went to the store to buy laundry detergent. I found the laundry detergent section and there were several brands. One was Barf and another was Pride. So, which one do you think I took home to the wife? I will give you a hint: it was not Barf. This was not really a good test of quality; It was simply because Pride sounded safe. Barf, well it just sounded … not so safe. Later, I found out that Barf is actually a Persian word written with Latin letters and means, believe it or not, snow.
For a lot of people, the name Baptist is just as alien as Barf was to me. Though there are Baptists in just about every country in the world many people have never met a Baptist, much less been in a Baptist Church. Let me tell you, we have some very radical beliefs! Not really … UNLESS you think believing the Bible is radical. Yes, we believe the Bible is the Word of God. All of it!… from the very first word to the very last word. We take it a step further and believe that God not only gave His Word to all mankind, but that God gave every human a free will to choose to accept or reject His Word. God desires all people to listen to the Bible and act upon what is written in the Bible. We do not use any other book in the practice of our faith. The Bible is our only and final authority for our lives and our worship of God.
So how does this affect the practice of our faith? It is a simple practice founded upon the teaching of God’s Word. Baptist Churches are independent and self-governed by the members of the local church. Since all believers have direct access to God in prayer through Jesus our mediator, there is no need for another human or spiritual mediator. Further, all believers can and should read, study, and apply the Word of God for themselves. Hence, the members under the direction of the Holy Spirit choose out from among themselves men to fill the only two offices of the church, the pastor and deacons. The pastor leads the local church in worship; The deacons help the pastor in the daily operations of the church. Membership is made up of those who have professed Biblical salvation and have been Biblically baptized. Yes, this is why we were first called Baptist because we would only baptize those professing true, Biblical salvation. Baptism according to the Bible is by immersion (that is to have the whole body put under the water). It is a public symbol of a new believer’s faith in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It also demonstrates the Believer’s desire to follow Christ in their new life. Baptism is the first of two ceremonies established by Jesus for the church. The second ceremony is called the Lord’s Supper. It is a remembrance of what Jesus has done for us as believers. It is also a time for self-examination and rededication to our Saviour. The Lord’s Supper takes place from time to time as the Spirit of God leads the church.
You might wonder what you would experience if you were to attend a Baptist church. Baptist churches are independent so there are often differences. However, most follow a simple service that starts with prayer and congregational singing. After the singing, there is a message or study from of the Word of God given by the pastor or another man who has been asked to do so. The service ends with a call to act upon the message from the Word of God and then a closing prayer. After the service, there is often a time of fellowship. I have included some links to Baptist churches that stream their services. Baptist churches are churches made up of people who simply want to follow God’s Word.