Monday, June 18, 2007


Dear friends,

Watch this space: this blog is part of a series attempting to answer the most important 300 questions I've been asked in 70 years of a fulfilling life, including nearly 50 years as a pastor. Here we'll try to understand one major Christian denomination - the Baptists. They come in many varieties!

This Blog when complete might be a useful resource for Baptist 'Church Members' / Pastors' classes.

Other Blogs in this series:

1 Month of Books you should Read

1 Month to Learn About the Internet

1 Month to Understand your Local Church

1 Month of Answers to Tough Questions

1 Month of Devotions

1 Month to Change Your Life

1 Month to Meet Some Interesting People

1 Month to Become a Christian

1 Month To Meet Jesus

Basic idea: you read one of the 30 posts each day and complete a 'mini-course' in a month. (I might even organize a certificate for those who complete the 300 units!)

Some of the material will be adapted from the John Mark Ministries website.

I look forward to journeying with you!


Rowland Croucher

Wednesday, May 9, 2007



Ken Manley (two volumes), From Woolloomooloo to 'Eternity': A History of Australian Baptists.

The Baptist Heritage, H. Leon McBeth (Broadman, 1987): a comprehensive 850-page overview of Baptist history and emphases, mainly from a North American perspective.

Challenge to Change: A Radical Agenda for Baptists, Nigel Wright (Kingsway 1991) 'calls for consensus over constitution, power over programme evangelism, and makes a case for Baptist bishops'.

A Community of Believers by Charles W. Deweese (Judson, 1978), a good general handbook, with a useful discussion on 'church covenants'

Growing on Together (Baptist Union of NSW), a simple, readable paper-back written by Australian Baptists.

Studies in Baptism by Basil S. Brown (Clifford Press, Melbourne), a 32-page summary of the meaning of Baptism by a former Australian theological college professor.

The Church, a Baptist View (Gordon W. Martin), Authority, a Baptist View (B.R. White), Freedom, a Baptist View (J.H. Briggs), Baptism, a Baptist View (John W. Matthews), Children in the Church, a Baptist View (D.F. Tennant), Ministry, a Baptist View (John F. Nicholson), booklets produced by the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland. (Australian agents - Clifford Press, Melbourne)

The Baptist Church Member (Baptist Church Life and Ministry, Victoria), 9 studies for prospective members. Available through Baptist Book Stores.

The Water that Divides by Donald Bridge and David Phypers (IVP, 1977), a good discussion of the pros and cons of baptism and the open/closed membership question.

A History of the Baptists by R.G. Torbet (judson, 3rd Edition), a good general history.

Baptist Confessions of Faith by W.L. Lumpkin (Judson 1959), a more comprehensive volume.

A Baptist Manual of Polity and Practice: Revised Edition by Norman H. Maring and Winthrop S. Hudson (Judson Press, 1991).

(Also check out the web site http// for the ABC/USA.)


Watch this space

28. BAPTISTS AND ?????

Watch this space

Monday, May 7, 2007


In this article we'll ask why Baptist churches/preachers/people exist across a wide theological/ecclesiological spectrum - from snake-handling ultra-fundamentalists in the American South, to a church from the American Baptist Churches group (a more inclusive denomination) whose pastor believes in reincarnastion to Baptists in the Church of North India who can live with infant baptism as an option.

Meanwhile, what do you make of these common jokes about Baptists?

Q: Why don't Southern Baptist teenagers have sex standing up?
A: Because it might lead to dancing!

Q: Why should you always take two Southern Baptist ministers when you go fishing?
A: Because if you only take one he'll drink all your beer!



Have you ever told a white lie? You are going to love this, especially all of the ladies who bake for church events: Alice Grayson was to bake a cake for the Baptist Church Ladies' Group in Tuscaloosa, but forgot to do it until the last minute. She remembered it the morning of the bake sale and after rummaging through cabinets, found an angel food cake mix & quickly made it while drying her hair, dressing, and helping her son pack up for Scout camp.

When she took the cake from the oven, the centre had dropped flat and the cake was horribly disfigured and she exclaimed, "Oh dear, there is not time to bake another cake!" This cake was important to Alice because she did so want to fit in at her new church, and in her new community of friends. So, being inventive, she looked around the house for something to build up the centre of The cake. She found it in the bathroom - a roll of toilet paper. She plunked it in and then covered it with icing. Not only did the finished product look beautiful, it looked perfect. And, before she left the house to drop the cake by the church and head for work, Alice woke her daughter and gave her some money and specific instructions to be at the bake sale the moment it opened at 9:30 and to buy the cake and bring it home. When the daughter arrived at the sale, she found the attractive, perfect cake had already been sold. Amanda grabbed her cell phone & called her mom. Alice was horrified-she was beside herself! Everyone would know! What would they think? She would be ostracized, talked about, ridiculed! All night, Alice lay awake in bed thinking about people pointing fingers at her and talking about her behind her back.

The next day, Alice promised herself she would try not to think about the cake and would attend the fancy luncheon/bridal shower at the home of a fellow church member and try to have a good time. She did not really want to attend because the hostess was a snob who more than once had looked down her nose at the fact that Alice was a single parent and not from the founding families of Tuscaloosa, but having already RSVP'd , she couldn't think of a believable excuse to stay home. The meal was elegant, the company was definitely upper crust old south and to Alice 's horror, the cake in question was presented for dessert!

Alice felt the blood drain from her body when she saw the cake! She started out of her chair to tell the hostess all about it, but before she could get to her feet, the Mayor's wife said, "what a beautiful cake!" Alice, still stunned, sat back in her chair when she heard the hostess (who was a prominent church member) say, "Thank you, I baked it myself."

Alice smiled and thought to herself, "God is good."

More Humor/Humour


Mission involves three components, according to the Bible (Micah 6:8, Matthew 23:23 etc.) - Social Justice, Mercy/Compassion, and an invitation to Faith (ie. evangelism).


'Spiritual formation is the process whereby the Word of God is applied by the Spirit of God to the heart and mind of the child of God, so that she or he becomes more like the Son of God.'


The Church is a 'community of faith, hope and love'. How is this supposed to happen?


Watch this space for an article on the way Baptists worship around the world. The variety of approaches might amaze you!


Watch this space for an article about children and the church. If babies/small children are not baptized, does that matter? What about Infant Presentation/Dedication services? Do Baptists believe in godparents? And more...

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


(Watch this space)


(Watch this space)


In this article we'll try to answer the question: 'If I'm supposed to contribute, how shall I know how to do that?'


Watch this space for an article about how you can best support your local church.


Watch this space: but in the meantime read this important article.


The Christian Brethren movement have had a valid objection to 'clergy running the church and denying others a ministry'. Baptists are still plagued by clericalism, whereby pastors accrue power rather than disseminating it. The task of church leaders is to train and empower others for ministry, not do it for them!


The idea of 'seeker services' is not new: it was there in apostolic times, according to Michael Green (Evangelism Through the Local Church). Neighbourhood 'coffee 'n dessert' nights, friendship services, Alpha Courses, Christianity Explained courses - these and many other tools are available for us as a church to reach out to those the New Testament calls 'the lost'.

But the very best means of evangelism has always been the integrity of the Christian's character. 'Preach the Gospel: use words if necessary' said Francis of Assisi. But words are important too. (What use is a signpost without words?).


Baptists may have some justifiable reasons to be leary of some things the World Council of Churches does. But they have no justifiable reason for non-cooperation with others who 'acknowledge Jesus Christ as Saviour Lord and God, according to the Scriptures'. We must not do anything to negate our Lord's prayer 'that they may be one'.


About 95% of Australian Baptists agree with the statement 'There's something wrong with the way our church business meetings are conducted'. The 5% who enjoy power-broking or have an excess of spare time on their hands or enjoy the thrill of swaying the voting intentions of others will derive some enjoyment from church members' meetings. Baptists have equated congregationalism with democracy: modern notions of democracy are not biblical. Baptists also have forgotten that the NT has three forms of church government - episcopal, presbyterian as well as congregational. Baptists have also allowed their adherence to a notion of 'the priesthood of all believers' to contaminate their polity: believers should not use church meetings as a forum to be negative. Church meetings exist for information-dissemination (what God is doing amongst us), celebration (worshipping the Lord who is the head of the church) and discernment (prayerfully finding the will of our Lord in specific situations). Whilst the method of decision-making will vary from culture to culture, and issue to issue, neither democracy nor unanimity is appropriate in every situation. (Democracy may mean the leading families rule; unanimity may leave us all at the mercy of the 'nut' who will vote 'no' to everything!).


People who derive their security from the predictable institutions or dogmas they adhere to will always be threatened by notions of renewal, particularly radical renewal. The impact of charismatic renewal is no exception. The Holy Spirit is moving in dynamic ways through all the churches and in all the world, but traditionalists will find themselves opposing anything which is not part of their cherished history. Although the devil as well as the Holy Spirit is operative in some aspects of charismatic renewal, Baptists and others will need to be careful about the dangers of fighting God: they can't win! (See my paper 'Charismatic Renewal: Myths and Realities').


In the NT women were quite prominent in the churches, despite strong patriarchal cultures. Today, the church is creating a scandal by appearing to treat women as second-class citizens. Some Baptist churches and denominations will not recognize the pastoral leadership gifts of women: if God were to raise up a Deborah to lead the whole people of God today some of us wouldn't let him to it! We should be grateful God is not a legalist! (See my paper on Women in Leadership).



Having pastored Baptist churches (in two States of Australia and in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) for 35 years, spoken to all the Baptist pastors' conferences around Australia and in many other countries, and preached in about 250 Baptist churches around the world, here are my suggestions about the issues Baptists are facing. They vary in intensity from place to place and church to church.


The essential issue here is the elevation of dogma or church rules over 'accepting' those whom God accepts (Romans 15:7). The two key issues are social justice (Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42) and open membership. Until recently Baptists were quite muted about their concern for the poor, and the causes of such poverty. Fortunately they are reading Jesus and the prophets again! On the issue of open membership, see my paper on the subject. Briefly, if Jesus said accepting people is more important than sticking to ordinances (even an important ordinance like baptism) then let's follow Jesus rather than the pharisees! Nothing can be added to grace, not even baptism. The Baptist principle of 'liberty of conscience' should apply here as everywhere else. A system which allows a sexually active young person or greedy adult to be a member of most of our churches (and they are!) but not a godly Anglican or Salvationist has got to have something wrong with it. Baptists have to be reminded they're Christians first, Baptists second.


Here's something I just sent to our state Baptist paper (The Victorian Baptist Witness):


There are many ways to measure a church’s health. But let’s start with a diagnosis of the illness (the Bible calls it ‘sin’).

There are three kinds of sinners – those who know they’re sinners and aren’t ready (yet) to change; those who don’t know they’re sinners, but believe all others not-like-them need to change; and those who know they’re sinners and want to change...

The sinless Jesus befriended the first group (‘acceptance precedes repentance’) annoying the Pharisees (‘repentance precedes acceptance’: ‘change your beliefs/behavior before you’re acceptable here’). Jesus says ‘I do not condemn you’, before ‘Go and sin no more’. Pharisees can’t help associating people with their sins – especially sexual sins.

Pharisees are ‘righteous’ but don’t know they are in need of grace (despite their protestations to the contrary). They know what's/who's right. They’re still crucifying Jesus, but don't know it.

'Saints' know their need of grace (they are not - yet - perfect). Although 'saint' is not used in the singular in the Bible (Pharisees are quick to point that out, though they employ plenty of other concepts, like 'Sunday School', which are also not in the Bible) the term has been employed by evangelicals - like the great Methodist Dr. W.E.Sangster - to denote people on the road to holiness. (So forget medieval stained- glass ideas about these people).

Pharisees think they've 'arrived' - they know it all. They believe almost precisely what their 'respected' Bible teachers taught them. They have nothing whatever to learn from those not-like-them. They think they know God’s law in the Bible but miss the main point, said Jesus - justice/love: see Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42.

Saints are maturing, growing, in faith, hope, and love. They discover God's truth and God's will in all sorts of unlikely places.

An easy way to pick a modern Pharisee: they emphasize 'truth' over love. Their creeds and systematic theologies have it all nailed down. Those becoming ‘saints’ emphasize love over (anyone's incomplete definition of) 'truth'. The saint's prayer is 'Lord be merciful to me, a sinner!' (Luke 18:9ff). And regarding 'truth' they believe that 'God has yet more light and truth to break forth from His Holy Word'.

More… ‘How to Know the Lord’ -

Pharisees Ancient and Modern -

Rowland Croucher
June 2008

Sunday, April 29, 2007


In the New Testament, bishops or elders (both words describe the same people) were the 'overseers' of the churches. These leaders 'work hard', perform pastoral duties and help make important decisions. Only those with the appropriate 'gifts' should be appointed elders - not just to 'fill the number'. It's better to have no elders than the wrong ones. Each elder ought to have a list of those they are shepherding, and these people know they can turn to their elder at any time. (A ratio of one elder to no more than 12 persons or family groups is recommended.)

Deacons are 'servants'. Both Jesus and Paul used this word of themselves. Their tasks: administrative leadership, policy-making, and planning.

Both elders and deacons have 'spiritual' ministries. They are accountable to the church members. The personal and spiritual qualities of these leaders are spelt out in 1 Timothy 3: 1-13. Note that such appointments have nothing to do with age, sex, or status. Spiritual leadership is not for people who like to be 'bossy'; the badge of office for all followers of Christ is a towel! Both groups (if your church has both) ought to be commissioned by the congregation, who will pray for them earnestly. These 'servants' will lead by encouragement and example, rather than by coercion. They will generally plan openly rather than covertly. They will continually inform their people of their doings, and will invite feed-back from the members. Occasionally they will 'retreat' ('advance'?) for times of prayer, study and discussion.

Rowland Croucher


Christ appointed leaders to serve the church. There's a list of these in Ephesians 4. Apostles, prophets and evangelists were generally 'itinerant' - they moved around among several churches. 'Pastor- teachers' were (and are) shepherds - feeding Christ's flock and caring for it. Their task: to equip all the members so that they will become spiritually mature.

Most Baptist churches have one pastor (although many are now appointing two or more). From the earliest Baptists (eg. John Smyth) the pastor/s were deemed to be subject to the congregation. He or she is generally considered the leader, although neither the pastor/s nor any other person has the final word in the church's affairs: that's the prerogative of the congregation - determined in members' meetings (in smaller churches) or special groups to whom authority is delegated by the members (in larger congregations). Sometimes the pastor is said to be 'the first among equals'. But the basic Baptist principle is that 'ministry' - in all its senses - is ministry by the church, not the ministry of an individual. (So you can't - or shouldn't - use the word 'minister' in the singular). But note that while pastors are servants of the church, the church is not their master - Christ is.

The pastors' priorities: Bible study, prayer, and training others for ministry. They're a sort of 'player-coach' encouraging others to serve, witness and visit. Church members are not helpers of the pastor, so that the pastor can do their job; pastors are helpers of the whole people of God, so that they all can be the church (to paraphrase Hans Ruedi Weber). Pastors must be encouraged to keep themselves 'in training for a godly life', so the congregation will allow them time for study and reflection. Remember that your pastors are human: they, too, have doubts, fears, and frustrations. Please don't add to them! Francis Schaeffer said pastors often unwittingly break the tenth commandment - they are covetous of the successes or gifts of other pastors. Remedy? Affirm your pastor, so they know they're loved! If you appreciate them, tell them so!


Discuss: Paul says (Galatians 3:28) that Jesus has healed divisions between Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free-people, males and females. The early church was ahead of its time in granting 'personhood' to women, and many fulfilled public ministries. American Baptists (from 100 years ago) and Southern Baptists (from 40 years ago) in the U.S. have occasionally ordained women for pastoral ministry, as have Baptists in Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Leon Morris, an Anglican Evangelical scholar, says women in the early church did more than 'keep silence when it was a question of expounding the Christian faith'. Some Baptists have emphasised the 'submission' and 'keeping quiet' passages. Others say that the principle of Galatians 3:28 is to be applied appropriately within each culture. What do you think?

Rowland Croucher

Thursday, April 26, 2007


How is a local church governed? Baptists are 'congregational'. They meet, free from any 'outside' control, as we said in the last post, to arrive at a consensus about God's will, through Bible study, prayer, and discussion. A British Baptist statement (1948) says such a church meeting is 'the occasion when, as individuals and as a community, we submit ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and stand under the judgment of God that we may know the mind of Christ'.

The aim of each congregation will be to reflect the character of Jesus in all that it does. So persons will matter more than agendas or programs or constitutions! We will love and respect those with whom we may disagree. Although Baptist church members' meetings are, in principle, democratic (any member is free to speak on any matter on the agenda), they are really, in essence, theocratic (ruled by God), so members don't have the right to say anything they please - but only what is loving, constructive, true, and that which humbly seeks the mind of Christ. Because they affirm diversity within their Fellowships they will sometimes 'agree to differ - agreeably' on some issues. So Baptists have generally been happy with 'majority voting' on all but really major issues (which may require a large majority, or, occasionally, total unanimity). Some churches seldom take a vote - they will discuss issues until a general consensus is achieved, or failing that, will defer the matter for further prayerful thought and consideration.

Here's an example of the discernment process practised in a Mennonite Church (From Marva Dawn's Joy in Divine Wisdom pp. 129-130: She applied to become a member of a Mennonite church, but had not been baptized by immersion as an adult):

'On the morning of the discernment process, I was asked to make a brief presentation of the importance to me of my infant baptism and of the nature of my faith in God as a result, because Mennonites actually first arose in protest to the requirement (often without faith) of infant baptism in countries where the state churches demanded it. In response to my faith statement, all the congregation members, who were seated at tables of eight, wrote down what they believed was the best procedure to follow concerning my request for membership.

'[They then] passed their comments to the person on the left so that everyone's remarks were read aloud objectively by the another person. Then each table came to a consensus about whether or not my membership appeal should be accepted. Then the consensus of each table was brought to the entire group, and a final consensus was reached to invite me into membership.'

Discussion: (1) Can you find any examples of 'democracy' in the New Testament churches? (2) Do you want to challenge the idea that 'any member can speak' at meetings? In Ancient Greece citizens could participate democratically in public debates, but in modern Western democracies a lot is delegated to our politicians and government bureaucrats. How much - and what sorts of matters - should be delegated to church leaders?

Rowland Croucher


The short answer, of course: Christ does! It's his church. When members of his body meet, he's there with them. Christ is both the Lord of the redeemed person and the redeemed community. Both have his Holy Spirit to guide them, and are therefore sufficiently 'competent' to know his will. So local Baptist churches are 'autonomous' - they govern themselves. (Look up Acts 13:1,2 for a New Testament example of a local church acting on its own initiative). Baptists therefore do not recognise the power of a bishop, synod, conference, or assembly - unless in exceptional circumstances - to determine or overrule the decisions of a local church.

Sometimes, however, these churches may cooperate, and form 'Unions' (there is a 'Baptist Union' of churches in each Australian state, in Australia as a whole, in New Zealand, and in fact in over 200 nations around the world). These associations of churches co-ordinate Baptists' joint efforts to obey the great commission. Such Unions may appoint leaders to guide in specific areas of ministry such as home missions (helping younger churches to get going), overseas missions and training future pastors. There is no fixed plan or pattern here: these structures are very flexible, change from time to time, and differ in various countries.

Local churches - like individual Christians - need each other. The challenge facing us is to encourage self-governing churches to become more 'inter-dependent' rather than 'independent'.

The Baptist Unions (or Conventions or Associations, as they are called in some places) are mostly affiliated with the Baptist World Alliance, which has about 37 millian members in 158,000 churches. (The U.S. has the largest number - 25 million, followed by India - 815,000, U.S.S.R. - 545,000, Brazil - 464,000 and Burma - 358,000. Australian Baptist church members number about 53,000, New Zealand 18,000).

Generally Baptists haven't been keen on 'organic' unity with other Christian denominations. Some Baptist groups have joined the World Council of Churches, while others feel they ought to preserve their distinctiveness by remaining outside such bodies. Baptists don't claim to be 'the only true church': they want to learn humbly from others. They believe that what unites Christians is far more decisive and basic than what divides them. However they have mostly felt that their special Scriptural insights are best preserved by staying 'Baptists'. (What do you think? Is this likely to change?)

Next time: How is a local church governed?

Rowland Croucher


Because people willingly choose to belong to the church, a high standard of Christian behaviour and discipleship is expected of members of Baptist churches. Because they possess God's Holy Spirit, they should live on a higher plane than non-Christians. Sometimes 'church discipline' has to be lovingly but firmly extended towards those who bring the faith of Christ into disrepute by their disobedient behaviour.

Many Anabaptists and early Baptists were martyred (often by drowning, 'seeing they like so much water,' their enemies said) for these beliefs.

More to come on what real discipleship/commitment means...

Rowland Croucher


Baptists have always been wary of alliances between churches and the state authorities. They've said governments shouldn't influence - or interfere with - the free choice people make about their allegience to Christ and the church. They have taken the idea a step further, too, and until recently, have generally refused government funding for their Christian ministries. (Today government grants may be accepted for educational and social welfare purposes, but not usually for worship and pastoral ministries.)

The notion of 'separation of church and state' can be misunderstood. Baptists have always said that what this idea suggests is that in a democratic society the Government should not endorse or privilege any particular religious group over others; it does not mean that religious groups should be barred from the arena of political debate.

More to come, especially from a review I've just done...

Rowland Croucher

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


The Church = 'The Company of The Committed'

It is not uncommon for Baptist church constitutions to begin: 'The church shall be composed of those... who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour and Lord'. When Baptists throughout their history have been asked 'Who belongs to the church?' their response is always: 'Only those who've deliberately chosen to follow the way of Jesus - the "regenerate", those born again!'

Perhaps this can best be explained by taking a short journey into the past.

Baptists trace their spiritual history back to people like the 'Anabaptists' ('re-baptisers') in 16th century Europe. It was the time when Luther, Calvin, and other 'Protestants' urged people to go back to the Bible for their instructions about faith and living, and reject doctrines and practices in the Church of Rome which they believed were unbiblical. For example, they talked about 'the priesthood of all believers'. The Church of Rome made ordinary believers dependent upon the mediation of the priests, but these 'Reformers' affirmed the right of every Christian to have access to God through the mediation of Christ alone. They encouraged ordinary people to read the Bible, the Word of God (something rare - and even forbidden by the church authorities in those days). They said that every Christian has the Holy Spirit who inspired the writing of Scripture, so God can speak to them by this same Spirit as they read the Bible. You and I don't need the authorities in the church to tell us what to believe - it's all there in God's holy Word.

The Anabaptists, however, said Luther and Calvin and the others didn't take their 'Reformation' far enough. They agreed that 'If it's in the Bible we believe it; if it isn't, we reject it, even though centuries of Christian history are behind a particular belief'. But they objected to the close alliance between church and state which had gone on for more than a thousand years. They also rejected infant baptism, which, they believed, served to perpetuate state churches filled with nominal Christians.

Meanwhile, over in England, a 'Puritan' movement emerged within the Church of England, calling that church back to the Scriptures. One learned man, Rev. John Smyth M.A. (a Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge University), became a city lecturer at Lincoln at the turn of the 17th century - a post which allowed him to expound the Scriptures to his townspeople who weren't satisfied with the teaching they were receiving in their churches. When things got 'too hot' for these Puritans, some went as refugees to Holland. There John Smyth continued to study the Scriptures, and with the help of some Dutch Mennonites (an Anabaptist group), came to hold certain convictions which Baptists have maintained ever since. In 1609 he became the leader of the first English-speaking 'Baptist' church.

He saw - with the Anabaptists - that 'established churches' weren't an apostolic idea at all. You become a member of these churches through infant baptism, and everyone in a particular community - or 'parish' - therefore almost automatically belonged to the 'parish church'. Now that's all wrong, these Baptists said. Only people who've had a personal encounter with Christ can belong to the church. You can't be born a Christian: at some point in your life you choose to belong to Christ's church, when you turn from your sins and commit your life willingly to him.

Next: the Baptist view of 'church and state'.

Rowland Croucher

Monday, April 23, 2007


Baptists begin a discussion about themselves by trying to understand the 'Good News', the 'Gospel'. In essence, Paul says (Philippians 2:10-11), the 'Good News' is that 'JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!' That's where Baptists start their thinking. This isn't just an abstract doctrine - it means that he's our Master, our King. We are his obedient servants, his subjects, who do what he commands. He is the ultimate authority for all thinking and acting. He is God the Son, through whom everything came into being and before whom everyone will ultimately 'fall on their knees'.

Jesus Christ is Lord - or 'Head' - of the Church, his Body. So Christians are people who both individually and collectively, are constantly asking: 'What does our Lord want us to believe, and what does he want us to do?'

Jesus is God's 'living Word'. And Baptists have always affirmed that the Bible, in which the mind of Christ is revealed, is 'the word of God written'. The Bible is God's authoritative guide for our faith and practice. It is the inspired record of the mighty acts of God in the history of his people Israel and fulfilled in the life, teachings, and saving work of Christ.

So Baptists are encouraged to be diligent 'Bible people', seeking with an open and reverent mind to understand what God is saying to us today. Sometimes we won't find specific answers to all our modern problems there, but we'll always find God's guiding principles. The greatest principle, or commandment, said Jesus, is to 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength'. And the second greatest: 'Love your neighbour as you love yourself'.

For Baptists, then, God alone is the sovereign Lord. They have always tried to follow the apostolic principle: 'We must obey God rather than humans'. Baptists reject doctrines or practices which either contradict or are not in harmony with Christ's will revealed in the Bible. They have simply believed that most of the differences between churches would be resolved if apostolic principles and practices were held in their true scriptural relationship with one another. And so, for just about every question we reply with another: 'What does the Bible say?'

But this doesn't mean Baptists arrogantly believe they are the only ones who are right. No one (except God alone) has 'a monopoly on the truth'. We are humble fellow-learners with others who also submit to the truth of Scripture. And 'God has yet more light and truth to break forth from his holy Word'. A Baptist says with love, to another Christian: 'You are my brother/sister, not because we happen to agree on everything, but because we are both God's children'. This is why Baptists have produced written 'confessions' but never written 'creeds'. Creeds become 'locked into' the particular questions of one historical era, and later Christians may be asking some different questions. Further, creeds tend to make people 'exclusive' - if you don't dot all the i's and cross all the t's you're not acceptable. Baptists aim rather to be inclusive: our bond is simply our common relationship to Jesus Christ.

This leads us to another Baptist emphasis for our next post -

The Church = 'The Company of The Committed'

Rowland Croucher


Felix Mantz was a native of Zurich, and had received a liberal education. Having adopted the principles of the Protestant Reformation, he became a close friend of Zwingli and other Swiss Reformers. But in 1522, he began to doubt the scriptural authority of infant-baptism, and as a result was thrown into prison.

After his release he preached in open places, and crowds flocked to hear him. He baptized those who professed faith in Christ. For this the Zurich magistrates denounced him as a rebel, and about the close of 1526 he was arrested and imprisoned in the tower of Wellenberg.

On the 5th of January, 1527, he was drowned. "As he came down from the Wellenberg to the fish market," writes Heinrich Bullinger, Zwingli's successor, “and was led through the shambles to the boat, he praised God that he was about to die for His truth. For Anabaptism was right, and founded on the Word of God, and Christ had foretold that His followers would suffer for the truth’s sake. And the like discourse he urged much, contradicting the preacher who attended him. On the way his mother and brother came to him, and exhorted him to be stedfast; and he persevered in his folly, even to the end. When he was bound upon the hurdle, and was about to be thrown into the stream by the executioner, he sang with a loud voice: ‘In manus Tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum.’ (‘Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.’) And herewith was he drawn into the water by the executioner, and drowned.”

Now, why would Felix Mantz be willing to become a martyr over a question like baptism?

Well, we're about to find out, and I think you'll discover it's a very interesting story.

Rowland Croucher

Saturday, April 14, 2007

1 Month to Meet the Baptists

Dear friends,

Watch this space: this blog is part of a series attempting to answer the most important 300 questions I've been asked in 70 years of a fulfilling life, including nearly 50 years as a pastor. Here we'll try to understand one major Christian denomination - the Baptists. They come in many varieties!

Other Blogs in this series:

1 Month of Books you should Read

1 Month to Learn About the Internet

1 Month to Understand your Local Church

1 Month of Answers to Tough Questions

1 Month of Devotions

1 Month to Change Your Life

1 Month to Meet Some Interesting People

1 Month to Become a Christian

1 Month To Meet Jesus

Basic idea: you read one of the 30 posts each day and complete a 'mini-course' in a month. (I might even organize a certificate for those who complete the 300 units!)

Some of the material will be adapted from the John Mark Ministries website.

I look forward to journeying with you!


Rowland Croucher