Our Baptist Distinctives
The following convictions are an important part of our history and heritage as a Baptist congregation. We understand that fellow Christians from other faith traditions may hold theological views and engage in ministry practices that differ from these convictions. Nevertheless, these distinctives express the prevailing beliefs and practices of our congregation as a whole and should be respected as such by all who are a part of our church family.
a. Baptism: Historically, Baptists identify baptism as an ordinance, not a sacrament. An ordinance is a religious ceremony that is ordained by God Himself. In contrast, a sacrament is often thought of as a religious ceremony that confers a specific and inevitable experience of grace upon the recipient. Baptism is not necessary for salvation; nevertheless, it is a command of Christ that each of His followers must obey. It is an outward, physical symbol of an inner, spiritual reality as well as a public profession of one’s personal identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We reserve baptism for a person who has already committed his or her life personally to Christ as Savior and Lord. The biblical mode of baptism is by immersion in water. Baptism by immersion is a prerequisite for membership in this congregation.
Matthew 3:13-17, 28:19-20; Acts 2:38, 8:12-13, 16:30-33; Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12
b. The Lord’s Supper: We regard the Lord’s Supper, also known as Communion, as the only other New Testament ordinance. It is a memorial meal that reminds us of a past event, a present reality and a future hope. As an act of worship utilizing symbols – the two elements representing Christ’s body and blood – it provides an opportunity for deep, personal connection with God and meaningful fellowship with His people. Anyone who is a member of the spiritual and universal Body of Christ is invited to participate in this church’s observance of the Lord’s Supper.
Luke 22:14-20; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, 11:23-26
2. The Independence of the Local Church
Baptists believe in and celebrate the autonomy of the local church to conduct its own ministry free of interference by any ecclesiastical or civil authority. We retain the right to decide for ourselves all matters of faith and governance. Nevertheless, we value the voluntary association of our congregation with any other Christian church as well as with our local, regional and national denominational entities for the accomplishment of joint mission endeavors and as a visible expression of our spiritual unity in the universal Body of Christ.
3. The Separation of Church and State
We believe in the separation of church and state. Because of our own history of suffering persecution by civil and ecclesiastical authorities, Baptists have long championed the cause of religious freedom. We affirm the God-given right of individuals and faith communities to pursue their respective relationships with God and govern their own affairs free of outside intervention or control. We also affirm the God-given opportunity to influence our community and our government in the pursuit of godly righteousness and justice. Our church does not endorse candidates for public office.
Matthew 22:21; Romans. 13:7; 1Timothy 2:1-2
4. The Priesthood of All Believers/Soul Competency
As Baptists, we purposely minimize the distinction between clergy and laity, asserting instead that all believers are priests subservient to Christ, our Great High Priest. We can each approach God directly ourselves. We need no human intermediary in order for us to relate meaningfully with our Heavenly Father. It is not for any clergyperson to tell us how we must believe. God alone is Lord of our conscience. Inherent in the truth of the priesthood of the believer is the principle of “soul competency.” Each believer is competent to interpret Scripture as one’s conscience is guided by the Holy Spirit. Likewise, each of us is directly accountable to God for our beliefs and behaviors. Our individual priesthood has another important implication: Our endowment with spiritual gifts makes each of us a minister. As ministers having the right to interpret Scripture for ourselves, we likewise have the duty to help the church discern and carry out God’s will.
John 14:26; Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6, 5:10
5. The Value of Personal Spiritual Disciplines
Along with other Christian traditions, Baptists place high value on the following personal spiritual disciplines.
a. Worship Attendance: The Bible teaches that the Christian Sabbath is the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, or Sunday. Since God would have us cultivate a sense of the holy, a regular habit of worship and spiritual nurture on that day should be the priority of all believers. The appropriateness of one’s activities should be the result of seeking God’s guidance personally.
Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:8-11; Leviticus 26:2; Psalm 118:24; Ezekiel 22:8; Mark 2:27; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Colossians 2:16; Hebrews 10:25
b. Devotional Life: The Bible teaches that a growing relationship with God is built in part through the study of God’s Word individually and corporately, as well as the development of a faithful prayer life.
Psalm 119:9-11; John 5:39; Acts 17:11; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; 2 Timothy 3:15-17
c. Tithing: The Bible teaches that the faithful return of 10% (the tithe) of one’s income to the Lord’s work is the appropriate beginning standard of financial giving for all believers. Giving additional gifts of love above and beyond the tithe is our privilege.
Leviticus 27:30; Malachi 3:10; Matthew 23:23; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
d. Cultivation of Community: The Bible teaches that all believers should intentionally pursue, promote and protect bonds of spiritual friendship with fellow brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.
John 15:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22, 4:8-10; Hebrews 10:25
e. Witnessing and Compassion: The Bible teaches that all believers have the privilege and responsibility to share the good news of salvation through Christ alone, as well as to engage in acts of compassion and kindness towards others as the Holy Spirit provides opportunity.
Matthew 4:19; 1 Corinthians 5:20: Galatians 6:10; 1 Timothy 6:18; Hebrews 13:16; 1 Peter 3:15
6. The Sanctity of Human Life and Marriage
We affirm our belief in the sanctity of human life that begins in the womb, the relationship of marriage as the only divinely ordained context for the expression of a sexual relationship, and the sacredness of the marriage relationship itself as being between one man and one woman until terminated by death as the biblical standard.
Genesis 1:27; 2:23-24; 19:1-11; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:13-16; Mark 10:1-9; Romans 1:24-27; 7:1-23; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Peter 3:7; Hebrews 13:4