Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Well…I’ve got a few moments and I would like to articulate why I’m proud to be called to plant churches and why I believe the churches I’m planting ought to be Southern Baptist churches. I honestly believe that the Southern Baptist Convention is better than hot dogs and pork-n-beans. I really do. Sure, I understand that the Church is far greater than the SBC and I do get aggravated by what I believe are silly in house disputes, occasional resolutions I find embarrassing, agencies duplicating ministries needlessly and local SBC churches not understanding (let alone reaching) their potential…but heck…I love the SBC. I love the dream called the SBC! Unless your church is Pentecostal or unless you all baptize should associate with the SBC first and foremost in my opinion (since I've already dealt with the trouble of the independent church model)...and I'm gonna share with you "why".

I wasn’t raised Southern Baptist, I became a Southern Baptist. I was raised a Regular Baptist…I guess I needed more spice in my Baptist church life (I wonder if the word “Regular” at one time had an exciting, thrilling and inspiring ring to it…cause I’d say that isn’t the case anymore, not so much at least). I won’t take you down the road of my personal testimony…but after my childhood I spent my teen years up through my early 20’s active in church but thinking I was not “Baptist”…so… I’d like to share with you the four main reasons why after looking into it, I choose to align with the SBC and am now planting SBC churches.

The first reason is the most important reason, theology. It’s always tempting to go down the road of articulating all the development of the Baptist tradition…I’ll resist. But, fundamentally, Baptists believe certain things and our doctrinal development is a fascinating study. There are a few things, however, that need to explained. Baptists believe in the primary authority of Scripture (and the infallibility and inerrancy of it!). They also believe that a sinner can only be saved by the grace of God through personal faith (alone) in the Christ revealed in the Scripture…and that “whosoever” calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Of course, Baptists believe in the ancient creeds of the Church regarding the nature of God. Baptists also have a “reformed” heritage…many of our early confessions are, like it or not, Calvinist documents. Of course through the centuries Baptists have developed various stripes, some more “Calvinistic” than others. In fact, free-will Baptists are not Calvinistic in their Soteriology at all. But for the most part, Baptists range between “2 point” and “5 point” Calvinists. I’m in the minority within the SBC…only about 20% of SBC pastors are “5-pointers” like me.

Anyway…Calvinism is not what makes Baptists divergent; after all, Presbyterians are historically Calvinistic as well. I am NOT a Presbyterian and will likely never be for two reasons. First, I believe in the autonomy of the local church. I’m going to touch on that a bit more later…but I believe each congregation should govern itself as they see fit, under the Lordship of Christ. I believe each congregation should ultimately be held accountable to Him, alone. Second, Baptism is not for babies and that is why Baptists only baptize those able to confess personal (and orthodox) faith in Christ. Baptism is also to be done by immersion. Dipping, dripping, sprinkling, spraying or splashing is not baptism. Those customs and traditions are nowhere prescribed in Scripture and I believe defeat the glorious image of what baptism is…the public profession of faith.

These doctrines are Biblical…I’m “a Baptist” not because of some family tradition (but that did have an influence, which I thank God for)…but because these doctrines are clearly taught in the Scriptures and can be very convincingly defended. In fact...I'd be a "Baptist" even if I didn't care to admit it. Saying, "I dont' like labels" doesn't change the tradition you are just means you don't like labels. If your church is “non-denominational/evangelical” and it doesn’t have people running around speaking in tongues (and teaching that all Christians should be as well) or falling down in the Spirit and if your church does not baptize babies…guess what? That's a “Baptist” church. You might not like that…you might not admit that…but it is what it is. The understanding of Scripture, the tradition and the philosophy which under girds such a church is straight from the Anabaptist stream, so deal with it. (or don't deal with it...but denial is not simply a river in Egypt!)

I believe classic Baptist theology is the most purely Biblical of all Christian traditions. Plus…the cousin of Jesus Christ Himself was a Baptist, so put that in your pipe and smoke it! (It's ok for Baptists to me. If you ever want to know how many Baptist deacons attended Sunday School simply go out into the parking lot once morning worship begins. Add up the cigarette butts and then divide by two. That'll give you a good estimate.)

Next time…Southern Baptist cooperation in missions…

And Jesus came and said to them,”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 ESV

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