Thursday, June 16, 2011

What's in a Name?

I want to tackle the “B” word with you today. It's often a stumbling block for people, some have a hard time defining it, some just want to ignore it, but it has significance. If you haven't guessed, It's the word “Baptist”. What does it mean? Why is it there? Why not just call ourselves Christians, why do we have to have the title attached? I want to answer some of those questions briefly so you know why I choose to be Baptist.

The movement we are affiliated can be traced back to the Reformation. During the Protestant Reformation, a group emerged in England called the Separatists. They wanted purity of doctrine and wanted to separate from the Anglican church. Those associated with this movement were generally known as the Puritans, many of who came to America in search of religious freedom. One of these Separatists was a man named John Smyth. Smyth believed that infants should not be Baptized and that only those who believe and have accepted Christ as Savior should be Baptized, and done so my full immersion. A layman named Thomas Helwys continued the leadership from Smyth and the Baptist movement began.

In the United States it was Roger Williams and John Clarke who worked to establish the Baptist Movement. These men worked for religious freedom in the United States, which was largely Congregational. The First Great Awakening in the United States established the movement firmly and grew the churches in the colonies very rapidly. It was the Baptist leaders in early America that fought for religious freedom and the ability for churches to meet in this country without government influence or control.

In many countries today, the term “Baptist” is a general term, not referring to a denomination or affiliation. It is a term used to identify those Protestant Evangelicals who baptize believers by full immersion. In many countries in Eastern Europe and in Asia, the term “Baptist” is often how we would use the term “Evangelicals”. During the Iron Curtain, the Communists identified those who were willing and eager to share their faith and be tortured for the work of Christ as either Orthodox or Baptist.

In the United States, the term “Baptist” has come to refer to a group of denominational traditions that all hold a common belief. They are all Evangelical in nature, hold to believer's baptism by full immersion and have an inerrant view of Scripture. In the United States, there is a variety of Baptist groups, such as the American Baptists, The Baptist General Conference, Landmark Baptists, and of course The Southern Baptist Convention.

So this leads me back to the original question. What difference does it make, it won't change our church any if we are not “SBC”, why do we have all this Baptist stuff? Denominations are in the Bible, so why do we do it? I have 4 reasons that I am, have chosen to be and will continue to be associated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

  1. Doctrinal purity. The Southern Baptists believe in the inerrant Word of God. In an age where many denominations seem to be straying from the truth of God's Word, this convention, this state and local association and this church will stand firm on the authority of the Bible.

  2. Accountability. If a leader in this church begins to stray from our mission and purpose, we can show them the covenants and we can show them our mission and purpose. As a Church, we agree with the Baptist Faith and Message and if we stray, we have other churches who will hold us accountable. Each member is part of the body, each body is part of a community, and the community provides us with accountability.

  3. Impact. It's hard for one church to reach a community because of the number of people. Multiply that by how many communities are in one city, how many cities are in one state, the states in a nation, the nations in a continent. You get the idea. As part of a cooperation of churches, we do our part in reaching the whole world. We give, we share resources and man power. We come together to do Disaster Relief, World Changers, Baptist Builders. We support together through the Cooperative Program to fund North American and International Missionaries.

  4. Opportunity to be involved. There is no reason that a member of a Southern Baptist Church couldn't be involved in mission work. You can help with World Changers, Disaster Relief, Baptist Builders, Gods Plan for Sharing. You can give to the Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong and Bill Hyde Mission Offerings. You can go on short term trips in the United States, Canada and all over the world. You can travel to different places to serve with Campers on Mission. The opportunities to get involved starts young, kids can be involved in work we do around the church and here at Heartland. Youth can work on short term trips, get involved in World Changers and other mission projects. College kids can begin international trips, as well as Summer and Semester Missions. After graduation, there are opportunities such as Mission Service Corps, USC2 missionaries, International Missionaries and so on. There area also the other missions I have mentioned, the list is long, much more than we can do just as an independent church.

I hope that helps you see “Baptist” in a little better light. Our devotion and our allegiance is to Jesus Christ, His Word is our source of truth and The Holy Spirit is our guide. Baptists follows Jesus as head, and chooses to work with other churches we know have that same conviction. Together, we form a group that is known as the Southern Baptist Convention.


  1. This is a good blog post. Well-written.
    R. Nations