Monday, May 19, 2008

What's in a Name?

For several years I've served on the membership committee of our local Baptist association. Many new churches have petitioned for membership during this period. I've noticed a trend that has become customary for new churches. The name "Baptist" is being left off the names of most new church starts. If you ask the pastors of these churches the reason for the absence of the name you'll receive various answers. Some say they were looking for a more trendy name. This is often an understatement as some have gone from trendy to just plain silly. The primary reason you'll receive is that people in today's culture do not want to be identified with a denomination. I think the real reason is most disturbing. The modern church has become fearful of appearing doctrinal. We want the world to see us as friendly and welcoming, not dogmatic.

What's in a name? The name "Baptist" describes something about us. First, Baptist churches are Protestant churches. Among other things, this means we believe that a man is saved through faith alone in Christ alone by God's grace alone. Second, Baptist churches have a high view of Scripture believing in its authority, infallibility, and sufficiency. Baptist churches have historically been confessional holding to a confession of faith to describe their beliefs. Third, Baptist churches have historically been congregational in polity. This doesn't mean that the local church is a democracy. The church looks to its elders for leadership. Baptist churches, however, recognize the autonomy of the local church and the great authority of the church. Speaking of this authority our Lord said, "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 18:18). Fourth, Baptist churches have definite beliefs about Biblical baptism. We believe that baptism is prerequisite for church membership, that the only legitimate candidates for baptism are those who have repented of their sins and professed faith in Jesus Christ, and that the only form of baptism is immersion. We see all other forms of baptism as illegitimate. The name "Baptist" tells the world that we hold these beliefs.

Rather than hiding from the name "Baptist" prospective members should be taught what it means. Baptist churches have historically been doctrinal churches. We need to return to the day where our Baptist churches are not afraid of doctrine. The name Baptist should reveal to the community that we are serious about the Word of God. Serious believers should seek out such places to serve and worship God. This is why we are Trinity Baptist Church.

No comments: