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What Baptists believe
We believe every individual believer is free to access God and serve Him in his or her own way (within biblical lines). For this reason, Baptist churches are often very different from each other. Some are very traditional, others very radical, and others are somewhere in between. We have no prayer book, no bishops, and no hierarchies. We are committed to each church being free to shape its own style, language, and ministry. At the same time, there are many things we share in common. Baptist Churches have existed since 1609, and one of the primary reasons our movement developed as a distinctive group among other Protestant Churches is our strong and enduring commitment to the principle of religious liberty for all.
Becoming a Christian
We are an evangelical church. We believe the Bible to be God’s inspired word for us. We look to the Bible to discover the mind of God and therefore our life values. We believe in the great biblical truth of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And we believe in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus: salvation by faith through God’s grace. A full statement of belief is available from all Baptist churches or from the Baptist Union in each State.
The purpose of churches
The church is a group of people who have each made a personal commitment to Jesus. While every individual involved in the church is gifted for different roles we believe everyone is equal before God. The Holy Spirit is working within each Christian equipping, directing and encouraging. Each church member therefore has the ability and responsibility to listen for God’s direction for themselves and the church. Therefore Baptist churches organise themselves with the following points in mind:
- Christ, not any particular individual, is the head of the church.
- Church meetings are an opportunity for everyone to express where they believe God is leading.
- God’s leading is ultimately tested in the concensus of a church meeting.
- The church does not try to tell anybody exactly what they should believe, but each individual seeks the truth of God personally.
Leading the church
We all have a part to play in running the church, but we recognise that certain individuals are personally gifted to provide leadership in the church. The church itself will recognise an individual as having the right gifts and abilities for leadership. The affirmation of a person into a leadership role is always based upon call, gifting, competence and character and not on gender, ethnicity or social standing. The church then allows the individual to use her or his gifts to lead the group. So while the church members themselves have ultimate accountability for the affairs of the church, they empower people into various leadership roles. Pastors are responsible for the overall direction and biblical teaching in the church. The deacons usually deal with matters of administration. Elders work with pastors to provide spiritual oversight and see to the personal and spiritual concerns of the church members. Leadership in a Baptist church is not a right to authority or personal power, but rather an individual using her or his gifts for the good of the church. Leaders are elected by, and accountable to, the church membership.
Becoming a member of the Baptist Church
We are more than glad to welcome all visitors and guests at our services. If you would like to engage fully in the life of a local Baptist Church, we invite you to apply for church membership. Membership is open to all who have freely committed themselves as Christians and expressed this in baptism. Each church has the right to decide who is able to become a member. All church members have equal rights and personal liberty.
We do have a particular view on baptism, but again it has to do with our greater commitment to freedom. We believe that the symbol of being baptised (being plunged under water and then brought up again) is an illustration of burial and resurrection. This indicates a believer re-enacting Jesus’ death and resurrection as being a substitute for his or her own. For this reason, we baptise believers who are free to choose faith in Christ and we prefer baptism by full immersion. Baptism does not make a person right with God, but is an expression of an inner spiritual commitment. Any Christian wanting to make this commitment should speak to their pastor.
Jesus gave his disciples a way of remembering Him, by sharing together bread and wine. It reminds us today of the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. Baptists encourage all Christians present at their communion services to share in the Lord’s Supper, no matter what their church background might be. It is usually celebrated once or twice a month and we use small pieces of bread and grape juice to follow Jesus’ example. Usually stewards serve the members of the congregation in their seats.
The world we live in
While we are only passing through this world, God calls us to be concerned for it. This results in us having a deep concern for such issues as poverty, justice, freedom, equality and the environment. We understand that the Bible does not draw distinctions between people’s spiritual and physical wellbeing, and we are committed to caring for both.