Last week, I had the blessing of teaching a new group of adults in the CORE class at Lancaster Baptist Church. I teach this class several times each year for those who are new to our church. Often it is filled with newly-saved, first-generation Christians who have lots of great questions!
Besides the opportunity to ask questions, CORE gives those who are new to our church a planned time to hear our church history and, especially, doctrine. It’s also a great entry point for discipleship and other areas of growth and involvement.
As I go over our doctrinal statement in CORE, we also cover our Baptist distinctives. Although independent Baptist churches have no affiliation with a denominational headquarters, we strongly affirm our commitment to biblical truth and to the distinctives that define our name. This simple acrostic helps to sum up the core distinctives of Baptists:
B—Biblical Authority in all matters of faith and practice. We believe the Bible is inspired and infallible and is the final authority. It is from God’s Word that we understand and teach the fundamental doctrines of our faith as well as pattern our church polity. (See 2 Timothy 3:16; John 17:17; Acts 17:11; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:20–21.)
A—Autonomy or self governing power of the local church. We believe that every local church should be independent of a hierarchical framework or outside governmental structure. (See Colossians 1:18; Acts 13–14, 20:19–30; Ephesians 1:22–23.)
P—Priesthood of believers. God’s Word assures believers that we have direct access to God through our relationship with Christ. We believe and teach that the priesthood of the believer is the unspeakably precious privilege of every child of God. (See Hebrews 4:14–16; 1 Timothy 2:5–6; 1 Peter 2:5–10.)
T—Two offices within the church. Scripture only mentions two church offices—pastor (also referred to as elder or bishop) and deacon. These two offices are to be filled by godly men of integrity in each local church. (See Philippians 1:1; Acts 6:1–7; 1 Timothy 3:1–13; Titus 1:6–9; 1 Peter 5:1–4.)
I—Individual soul liberty. We believe that each person must make a personal decision of repentance and faith in Christ. (See Romans 10:9–17, 14:1–23.)
S—Separation of church and state. The state should have no power to intervene in the free expression of religious liberty. (See Matthew 22:21; Acts 5:29–31; Romans 13:1–4.)
T—Two ordinances—baptism and the Lord’s Table (also called communion). These ordinances have no part in salvation and only serve as pictures of what Christ did for us. (See Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26; Acts 2:38–43, 8:36–38; Romans 6:1–6)
S—Separation and personal holiness. We believe that Christ’s ultimate sacrifice demands our complete consecration, and we desire that our daily living would reflect the holiness of our great God. (See 2 Corinthians 6:14; 1 Peter 1:16.)
I’m thankful to carry the name Baptist, because I’m thankful for what it represents in both doctrine and forebearers.
When I was in Bible college, I remember young men just starting out in ministry dropping the name Baptist hoping to attract more people to their churches. That spirit of pragmatism continues today. But the truth is, if your focus is unsaved people, the name Baptist doesn’t hinder your ministry. If you are trying to reach out to disenfranchised people or people trained in contemporary churches, it might. But the average lost person who has not heard a clear presentation of the gospel doesn’t really care if you’re Baptist or nondenominational. In fact, many who I have spoken with appreciate a church that clearly articulates and consistently practices what it believes.
A man recently told me he learned at a pastors gathering to “remove hindrances” to the gospel. He felt the name Baptist was a hindrance. But I wonder, how far does that line of thinking go? What if the world sees the New Testament practices of preaching or witnessing or standing for truth, such as biblical marriage, as a hindrance? These are not hindrances; they are ancient landmarks. By God’s grace, I will not move these landmarks.
If you believe the Baptist distinctives listed above, don’t be ashamed of being a Baptist. Don’t be ashamed of your heritage. And don’t be ashamed of the Bible or its doctrine.