Who are Baptists?
Baptists are ordinary church people who have a distinct place in God’s wonderful, diverse worldwide Church, however the first thing we need to say is that this kind of denominational identity isn’t important to many ‘Baptist’ Christians. Perhaps fewer than half the people who come to our church choose it because of its ‘Baptist’ label. While we are Christians first and Baptists second there are some things that make our church distinctively ‘Baptist.’
What do Baptists Do?
The first and perhaps the most obvious thing we do, is that we baptize believers according to their faith in Jesus Christ. We believe in adult ‘believer’s’ baptism by full immersion in water. We enjoy good relationships with other churches that christen babies, but we don’t choose to do this, because we see in the Bible that Christian baptism is for those who have made up their own minds to follow Jesus. This goes hand-in-hand with the truth that being a Christian is a personal decision and not a matter of upbringing, race or nationality.
Baptism might be done in our own baptism pool or even in the river, or the sea! The person being baptised is very briefly submerged under the surface of the water and then brought straight up again. The practice of getting baptised is symbolic and represents the end of our old life and the beginning of a new life through our faith in Jesus Christ. It is a picture of burying our old life in the water and rising clean and forgiven because of Jesus’ own death and resurrection. It is an outward sign of the personal commitment that we have made to follow Jesus.
The second thing that makes us distinctively Baptist is our ‘collective government.’ This means that each Baptist Church makes its own decisions according to the approval of its members. We do have leaders (in our case known as Deacons and Elders) that are elected by the church members and their job is partly to facilitate and create agreement among the membership when a new initiative or direction is needed for the church. This type of church government comes from the conviction that leaders are not a breed apart from others and that all believers have the ability and responsibility to hear from God and to discern His will together. We therefore have no official authority structure, however we do belong to a national grouping of Baptists called the Baptist Union of Great Britain. They act in a supportive role in terms of charity, legal advice and setting standards for the training of Baptist ministers. When it comes to funding and money matters we are not funded by the Baptist Union. Each Baptist church generally depends on the giving of its own people for financial support.
It is these two principles that go to make a church a ‘Baptist’ Church. The lack of a national authority structure means that Baptist Churches countrywide may differ in style and in some matters of Christian belief. Our Church is an evangelical Baptist church, and you can see what that means and find out more by clicking the link below.