Who are Baptists?
Most Baptists, in fact most Christians, would rather say they have a faith than say they are religious. In fact, we're pretty easy going and relaxed when it comes to, what you may consider, the traditional aspects of religion. But Baptists are Christians. We believe in God, three in one, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
However, there are a few things that make Baptists different from some Christian traditions you may be familiar with.
Each Baptist Church is different and every member may personally emphasise different aspects of faith, but we have 3 principles we all agree with.
1. That our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, is the sole and absolute authority in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and that each Church has liberty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to interpret and administer His laws.
We believe that Jesus is the only authority in matters of faith and each church (community of people gathered together) has the ability to follow his teachings. But what does this look like in practice? Firstly, we don't believe there is a single person who is in charge. If God can speak to each of us, we are all responsible for understanding what He is saying. This is often called a "priesthood of all believers." Secondly, we have a constitutional method of church governance, which means we hold regular meetings to discern what we think God is saying and then vote accordingly. And finally, we believe there should be a separation between church and state. There have been too many instances through history where the state has tried to undermine the church, and where the church has not functioned as it should when people can seek political power by being part of it.
2. That Christian Baptism is the immersion in water into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, of those who have professed repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ who 'died for our sins according to the Scriptures; was buried, and rose again the third day'.
Why are we called Baptists? This comes from our belief in Baptism of a believer by full immersion. We don't think anybody is born with a faith, we think faith is something you either choose to have, or choose not to have, when you're able to make that decision for yourself. Therefore, we don't baptise babies. Instead, when a person decides they want to live a life following the teachings of Jesus, we baptise them by full immersion in water. You may have seen this before carried out in rivers or lakes, at OBC we have a baptismal pool that lives under the chapel floor and we fill it up when needed. Don't worry, it has heaters!
3. That it is the duty of every disciple to bear personal witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to take part in the evangelisation of the world.
As Baptists we think that it is the duty of every believer to share their faith and to show people that God really, truly loves them. We don't think faith is something you only have on a Sunday morning. We aim to live our lives in service of others, helping shape and change the world into a better, more loving place. We try and put our faith into practice. This doesn't mean we're perfect people, it means we acknowledge our flaws and when we don't quite get it right, we admit to it. The world needs a little more honesty.