We are Baptists by doctrine and practice. Before you jump to preconceived conclusions, please hear me out. Many people out there claim to be Baptists, but a lot of them are completely clueless as far as actually BEING BAPTIST. The Baptist distinctives are very clear, and I will not go through them all here now. But I will emphasis a few of them.
First of all, being Baptist is not necessary done and completed by putting the name “Baptist” in the title of the church. There are a good number of “Baptist Churches” that do not have a good grasp on the Baptist distinctive. There are also some Bible churches which hold to Baptist doctrine and practice a lot better than some Baptists.
Secondly, Baptists have a position of building a church family and ministry WITH SAVED PEOPLE. By this, their services, teachings, and sermons emphasize the Gospel. I denounce Baptist churches which believe and practice easy-believism, removing the essential Gospel element of repentance from the plan of salvation and relegating it to a post salvation, post baptism, post church membership, after regeneration position. If repentance of sin is not preached to the unsaved before they accept the Gospel, that person is not really saved. Many in the Hyles-Anderson/Sword of the Lord orbit do exactly that. Our desire to gain many converts cannot manipulate the Gospel to destroy it. Many Calvinists also make regeneration a post-salvation event. I denounce them also.
Thirdly, I believe that within the Baptist distinctive is an element of independent churches. This element is a basic belief that denominations, as a structure is wrong and unbiblical. Each individual church should be sovereign over its own affairs, it should be self-supporting, and it should be self-replicating. The authority of any New Testament biblical church should be the leaders and members of that church making the decisions for themselves. This is done under the leadership of the church, normally the pastor and whatever group of men that aid him. Congregational vote is not what decides matters (Holy Scripture does), but every biblical church will try to fully plan, explain, and convince their congregation of that biblical position in the matter, and then a congregational vote to ratify the church’s actions is highly desired. In other words, although there is a definite biblical leadership of pastor, elders, and deacons in a Baptist church, the congregation understanding and being convinced of any controversial actions is extremely important. The leadership in and by itself cannot do things, but rather they “lead” the congregation so that the Church as a whole “stays together” on the same beliefs and practices.
Fourthly, biblical Baptist churches also believe, respect, and practice soul liberty. By this term we indicate that God has not given us “spiritual gurus” which are to make important decisions for us, but rather God directs each and every believer in his own life via the means that God has provided. These means are (in order of importance) the Word of God, our own personal conscience (the Holy Spirit acting on our perceptions via Scripture which we understand and know), our particular church and leaders, and finally by the godly example of other good Christians. Every biblical church will seek to use the first two means exhaustively before relying on the others mentioned. A godly pastor will not make decisions for his people, but explain clearly the biblical issues and biblical commandments involved so that they will make these decisions for themselves.
Fifthly, biblical Baptist churches do not allow a dictator style of leadership to creep into their church. By this, a dictator leadership style means that the personal, individual understanding, impressions, and evaluations of the brethren of Christ are of little value, and the leader’s desires are really the only thing that matters. A biblical church ALWAYS has the leaders teaching and convincing the members BEFORE IMPOSING ACTIONS by means of preaching and teaching the Word of God. A biblical Baptist Pastor will not impose his will on his congregation, but rather expose through expository preaching God’s will, and convince his congregation to follow God’s will.
Sixthly, a biblical Baptist Church respects the priest of every believer. By this, it will not accept any kind of new priesthood by the clergy, whereby individual Christians are held spiritual hostage by their religious leaders. Biblical Baptist pastors do not condition obedience to THEM and to THEIR PARTICULAR CHURCH before a Christian can think to be right to God. Loyalty is a good thing, but we must not kill any real concept of loyalty to Jesus by equating it to loyalty to an earthly institution which has errors, faults, and problems. Our loyalty is only to God. Our loyalty to our church and other men of God only goes as far as they are obedient to God’s will and Word. If we cannot see clearly where their particulars are expressed in Scripture, then we have no loyalty to their plans, desires, visions, ministry, or dreams. A biblical Baptist pastor understands and respects that, and therefore he will do all in his power to convince with correctly exposited Scripture as his means of leading the flock of God at his charge. Any other kind of leadership style is unbiblical, and by default it is unbaptist.
Seventhly, all true Baptists and baptistic churches and men of God hold the authority of Scripture very high. Scripture is what defines our conduct, our beliefs, our practices, and what instructs us on methodology of doing ministry, and on anything else in which it touches. A man cannot be a Baptist nor baptistic if he takes a plan or view that the New Testament is out of date, and needs remodeling in modern terms. True baptists have no problem with sticking to the old values and morals given to us by God in the Bible. A constant search for new, improved, changed, and “relevant” methodologies is to abandon the Baptist way.
Eighthly, we believe in only two ordinances, water baptism by immersion, and the Lord’s Supper. We do not have any sacraments, being a ceremony that communicates grace towards salvation for the participant. We believe that salvation comes by grace through faith, and that salvation is not by the accumulation of good works (grace). All the grace necessary for salvation has been finished in Jesus Christ’ work on the Cross. I would denounce Calvinism here, because their belief is actually that salvation is by election, not by grace through faith. The Bible only teaches of God’s grace which is granted on the basis of faith in the individual, and Scripture does not present to us the doctrine of salvation by election as Calvinism presents it. God’s Word everywhere teaches openly and forthrightly that if any person understands his sinful position before God, and believes in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, that he can and will be saved. There is never any appeal or consideration as to whether a people or individuals are elected before presenting the Gospel, nor does Scripture indicate that only the elect are the only ones saved and that we should in any manner restrain or restrict our evangelism to those elect. Scripture places a single dynamic on the table as far as salvation, if any man will hear and believe, he will be saved.
Finally, we believe that a church or people can only be Baptist and baptistic if they fully engage in the Great Commission. Following on the previous point, no church can truthfully claim to be Baptist if it is not fully engaged in evangelism in its locality, and in world missions. Baptist churches that do not have missionaries, or do not have an appropriate budget for missions as per their size and income, are simply disobedient to God’s command. Being “fully engaged” means that they seek biblical missionaries, they pray for them, and they financially support them faithfully as God provides. A biblical missionary in this context is a missionary who presents the Gospel and forms a local church from the converts of that evangelism. Other ministries may be valid besides this, but they are not missions. They should not be considered in the missionary obligation and fulfillment of the church.