Baptist Identity? WHAT Baptist Identity?
There seems to be a lot of stuff flying around about discerning what the "Baptist Identity" is, and to define it so we can tell it when we see it. I honestly don't understand why people are trying to do that.
Unless I DO understand it, in which case I REALLY don't understand it. Uhhh .. unless I understand THAT, too, which would be really sad.
Before I joined the SBC, I figured Baptists were folks who believed the Bible, thought it was inerrant, believed that Baptism by immersion was the appropriate response to salvation, and that was pretty much it. But then, I got a copy of the BF&M ... the 1963, not the commie pinko 2000 version ... and read it. And, after reading it, I came to the conclusion that I'd been pretty much right. Well, other than the fact that, what the BF&M didn't say, shifted the matter into a whole different gear ... one of much, much more responsibility on the believer to know scripture and to grasp the realities of salvation by faith. And also one which called for more of a personal relationship with a Living Lord. Much more than I'd ever heard of, as a Presbyterian or Methodist.
So .. what's going on now? Maybe some Suits in the Towers have finally figured out that what I knew as a Presbyterian and Methodist, about being a Baptist, is all most Baptists know about being Baptist. And they may be right about that. I've asked a lot of church members about the BF&M and have YET to have anyone in the church tell me they'd read it. A few said they'd "seen it" and many more said they'd "heard about it".
When I read the Old Testament, I see a nation that mostly strayed away from God ans was called back to repentance and right standing by God's chosen Prophets, Priests, etc. Well, as the New Testament Israel of sorts (Check Galatians 3:29 for definition), maybe we're like that now. Maybe most folks aren't ever going to really "get with it" in the church. Maybe leadership has gotten so accustomed to "believer/priests" who don't act like it, that we've reverted to more of an Old Testament model of the church, than a New Testament model of the Body of Christ.
So maybe leaders do have to step up and refine and re-define and narrow the guidelines to bring the Body back where they think it ought to be. I don't know, but I figure there's a good chance that the church never did look like what the "definers" have in mind that it should look like now.
Things DO look different in a rear view mirror, you know.
In Dr. Paige Patterson's recent response to the flap about the declining numbers, he said two things that really resonated with me. One was this: "We lie to ourselves and to the world to count people as "members" who no longer have anything to do with our churches."
WOW. That's enough to explain a WHOLE lot of things, right there. Has anybody read this before: Proverbs 12:22: Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight. (KJV)
If we really believe the Bible, then we have to believe that our representation of 16.5 million members is an abomination to the Lord. And how much blessing do you really expect Him to pour out on a group that, for two years, has refused to even admit, much less address, a purposeful misrepresentation that God describes as an "abomination"?
The other thing Dr. Patterson said might be responsible for the decline in numbers, was "anemic preaching in our pulpits". If we do in fact have anemic preaching, might that account for people who join our churches according to our rules, and then, for the most part, drop out? Could it be that such anemic preaching might also bring the church membership to look pretty much like unchurched folks (i.e: divorce rates, etc)? Somehow, some way or another, folks don't seem to be getting the message.
As an old insurance salesman, I learned one point that might be apropos here: when someone says "The price is too high", they're really saying "The value is too low". In other words, if they don't want to pay the price of a life of devoted service to Jesus, if they don't want to tithe, if they don't want to take part in the work of the church, if they don't want to get into the word as they should, what they're really saying is ... I don't see the value! And where else can the cause of that be, than what Dr. Patterson referred to as "anemic preaching"?
I don't know ... maybe things do need to change. Maybe parameters to need to be narrowed. Maybe we need to toss out the Calvinists. Maybe we do need to disfellowship folks who speak in tongues.
Maybe we need to do away with Baptist identity altogether.
If we do, that'd sure be the way to do it.
Labels: Baptist Identity