The Great Big Blue Dot (Part 2)

<— Click here for Part 1 Click here for Part 3 —>

Figure 1: The Great Big Blue Dot. Click here to link to Part 1.

Have you read Part 1? If not click here.

I’ve been speaking to a whole lot of Baptists lately and things are starting to solidify in my mind but I’m not in the place where I’m willing to commit my thoughts to the written word. So what do I do when in I’m in doubt? Get a guest to kick things off of course :). The next number of blog posts are adapted from a series written by Christo Beetge* entitled What does it mean to be a Baptist?.

Have you ever wondered what [being a Baptist]** actually means?

Sometimes we need to state the obvious! So here goes: Christians aren’t churned out of the proverbial “sausage machine”. In a world where, on the one hand, differences between people are clearly apparent, and where on the other hand, there is much pressure to either disregard these distinctives or smooth over them, many Christians wonder to themselves, “What makes us, as believers, different to the Methodists or Presby’s (for instance)?” . Unless an informed answer can be given to such legitimate questions, we can inadvertently find ourselves thinking some erroneous thoughts, and thus heading in some harmful directions. One such erroneous thought that I have heard expressed pretty often, comes in this form, “Well, we’re all the same deep down, anyway”. (Sometimes this sentiment is dressed up as follows: “All roads lead to Rome”; “We’re all climbing the same hill, but from different directions”; “All people who call themselves Christians are essentially after the same thing”).

The thinking behind such expressions is that whilst we might all be playing in different coloured jerseys, grouped into different teams, and operating according to a slightly different game-plan, at least we’re all playing rugby (if you’re keeping up with the metaphor!). It would be bad enough if non-believers waved the discussion aside believing that all Christian denominations are essentially the same, but when believers themselves, through ignorance, cave in to such thinking, then we are really in trouble! So, the question, “What makes someone specifically a Baptist?” is a worthwhile question to be able to answer confidently. After all, the sign out front does read, Baptist Church], does it not? So, in effect, we are asking, “What is loaded into this word ‘Baptist’ then? Could we not equally meaningfully have called ourselves [a Community Church, or a Family Church]?”. What is with this word “Baptist”?

Before we go ahead and answer the question, let’s take a moment to do two things: Firstly, let’s admit that we are not so naïve as to think that everyone who worships at a Baptist church is there because the convictions they hold dear are necessarily Baptistic convictions. No, we recognize that some people, maybe even many people, in any particular Baptist church are there because they just happen to have come and stayed and put down their religious and relational roots there. When they were “church shopping”, XYZ Baptist church simply happened to be the closest church, or the most friendly of those that they tried out, etc. Maybe their friends/family attend and invited them to come along. Maybe they came to hear a particular preacher. Maybe they liked the music and “the feel” of the service. But in reality, many people who worship at a church with the name “Baptist”, could just as easily be at a church without that 7-letter word in its name.

Then secondly, let’s be persuaded that the question is really worth answering. It is only when we define our terminology that we gain some insight. Why use the word “Baptist” if it has no meaning, or if we don’t care about its meaning? If we insist on using it, let us at least be clear what we are intending to say by doing so. We don’t simply want to sit with a mouth full of teeth when people ask us, “Why do you attend the Baptist church?” But, equally, we don’t simply want to puff out our chests with bravado and “own a particular name”, and identify ourselves with a particular brand or franchise, in the way that some families teach their children, “My boy, never forget that you are a Kennedy! You can wear that name with your head held high”. No! We want to be motivated by the knowledge that as ‘Baptists’ we stand in a long line of people who have held to a certain bouquet of distinctive convictions, for which they have been prepared to shed their own blood. Let us be acutely aware that many of our Baptist forbears have literally died for insisting that they hold to certain convictions not necessarily shared by all fellow Christians! This willingness to pay a price has arisen from the persuasion that the Bible forces us into a certain mould.

Call this an intro. Tomorrow I’ll post the remainer of the first section which begins to answer the question, “are you a Baptist? Or do you simply happen to worship God at a “Baptist” church?”

Christo Beetge Brackenhurst Baptist Church

* An article, written by Christo Beetge, and published in 5 parts in the Brackenhurst Baptist Church’s monthly in-house publication entitled Pastors’ Pen. This publication is produced by the Elders, with a view to stimulate congregational discussion and debate and to promote rigorous Christian discipline in reading and thinking.

** Wherever you see [ ] I’ve edited the original text to contextualise the content for a broader audience.

<— Click here for Part 1 Click here for Part 3 —>

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