I’m a Baptist. And I’m a Southern Baptist. And I live in Colorado. Some have preconceived notions as to what Baptists are. Below are some of the convictions we have as Baptists. I’m grateful to a deacon named Henry with whom I served in Breckinridge County, KY in 2002-2003 where I pastored a small church. What exactly are Baptists? This acronym will help you understand the basics:
“The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation” (BF&M 2000, Article I: Scriptures).
Autonomy of the local church:
“Autonomy means that each Baptist church, among other things, selects its pastoral leadership, determines its worship form, decides financial matters and directs other church-related affairs without outside control or supervision. Baptist denominational organizations such as associations of churches and state and national conventions have no authority over a Baptist church” (Baptists Believe in Church Autonomy, http://www.baptistdistinctives.org/resources/articles/church-autonomy/).
Priesthood of believers:
A priest serves as a mediator in interceding between God and His people, and representing God to His people and the world. Christians may come to God on their own, with Christ as their mediator. We do this individually, but also corporately in connection with a body of believers. We need none other to approach God on our behalf besides Jesus. “There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
Two ordinances: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
Baptism (from the Greek baptizo) means to immerse upon one’s profession of faith and repentance in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:9-11; Acts 8:26-40; Romans 6:1-4).
Lord’s Supper contains the bread and juice which are symbols of the reality of the crucified Christ who broke His body and shed His blood for the forgiveness of sin (1 Corinthians 11:23-34).
Intentional in evangelism and missions
Baptists take the Great Commission seriously (Matthew 28:18-20). The new birth in the Spirit births a new love for others (John 3:1-8; 13:34-35). We seek to win the lost by verbal witness along with a Christian lifestyle, and other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ. Our giving of our finances, time, and spiritual gifts is for the purpose of advancing the gospel from our community to the corners of creation, for His glory and our good (Colossians 3:23; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
In order to be a member of a Baptist church, you must be regenerate (a.k.a., born again) by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) in Christ alone (John 14:6). We are called by the Spirit (Romans 8:26-30), justified from the penalty of sin (Romans 3:21-26), set apart from the power of sin (1 Thessalonians 4:3), glorified in heaven from the presence of sin (Revelation 21:1-4). There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ.
Two offices in the church: pastor and deacon (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Acts 6:1-4).
Pastors (also called in the New Testament elders, bishops, and overseers) oversee the spiritual needs of the church, primarily prayer and ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4, 1 Peter 5:1-5). Deacons oversee the physical needs of the church (Acts 6:1-7). The qualifications for each are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9. Each Baptist church is led by the Holy Spirit to select their own pastors and deacons (see Autonomy of the Church).