Finally, being Baptist is a way of confronting culture, interacting with society, and relating to people, that is, a way of living in the world. For Baptists, an individual Christian and a congregation of Christians are to be in the world but not be of the world.
Being a Baptist is also a way of doing church, that is, a way of functioning in a community of faith and living in relationship with other Christians. For Baptists, a congregation is a people gathered voluntarily and willingly.
Several years ago I took a mission trip outside the United States. In a casual conversation a young man asked me what I believed about God. Part of my response was, “I am Christian.” As the conversation progressed, it became clear that the word “Christian” has all kinds of implications.
Much is written and spoken today about what’s wrong with the church. A great deal of it is deserved. Blogs and books abound in describing its deconstruction and dysfunction. I want to offer a word of witness about the nine Baptist churches where I have been a member, five of which I have also pastored.
I grew up with an almost reverential respect for the Bible, not really knowing why. One didn’t put another book on top of a Bible, and one never destroyed a Bible. It was the “Holy Bible.”
Years ago I read the story from E. Stanley Jones, the esteemed Methodist evangelist, about his first sermon. He was 17 years old, and he was delivering it to his home church. Early in the sermon he fumbled with some words, and a lady on the second pew chuckled.