This month, I thought I’d start a series of articles I’m calling Baptist Bites. In them, I hope to provide short, digestible accounts to the history, people and beliefs that led to who we are as Baptists today.
In our local church we have a mix: lifetime Baptists as well as those who have joined us from other denominational roots. I think this little series will be helpful to both groups. For those who came from other traditions, there are surely some who researched Baptists as they were joining, or perhaps received a class about it later. On the other hand, people often join a new church because they’ve married someone who is an active member and wishes to remain. Perhaps they join because they find the doctrine to be Biblical and the people to be welcoming and loving (we hope that’s true of us!) In any case, they might wonder, in the back of their minds, how this Baptist tradition came to be. What are the unique beliefs that made the founding generations feel they needed to start their own denominational tradition?
A “brush-up session” might be good for us lifetime Baptists as well. For decades, a sense of historical roots and identity has been crumbling. That’s true in churches as well as the culture in general. Many (maybe most?) new Evangelical churches are nondenominational, and many older churches are deleting the denominational identifiers from their names. They certainly have the right to do as it seems best to them, and I actually don’t mind learning from other traditions and incorporating some of their best ideas—so long as they’re Biblically-faithful. But it also seems to me that churches these days are happy to morph themselves into something entirely different without first taking the effort to understand their own tradition, why they believe as they do, and what are the really good ideas in their own spiritual heritage. If they re-invent themselves out of ignorance of their own identity, they’re in great danger of losing much that is precious—that they might come to regret after it’s gone.
I start this little series, then, in hopes that we will learn what is unique and good about this family tradition we’re part of today. To be sure, our tradition is far from perfect. That’s always the case when human beings had anything to do with it. But there are some reasons that Baptists believe and practice as they do—and some of them are pretty good reasons!
I don’t write these with the intent to make you feel inferior or wrong if you came from a different tradition that you still value. Every denominational tradition has some good ideas! My goal that we can all see and appreciate the good things that the Baptist tradition can offer in our quest to know, love and follow Jesus together. I hope it will be interesting, and maybe even a little bit fun!