Many of us remember a time when Training Union taught us what it means to be a Baptist, writes Bill Jones in the latest newsletter of Texas Baptists Committed.
Many of us do, but many of us don’t. And that’s related to Bill’s point. Since most churches did away with Training Union and its successor, Church Training, fewer and fewer Baptists know what it means to be a Baptist.
“Many members of Baptist churches know no reason for being Baptist except that the Baptist church is the closest… or the one with the most comfortable worship style… or the one with the best youth program for their kids,” Bill says.
Now those are acceptable reasons for attending a church, but why would someone want to drive past a closer church to attend a Baptist congregation? Or why would someone pass up one church’s worship service for one that is meaningful but less comfortable in another church? Or why would someone choose a church with a good youth program but maybe not the best?
There was a time not too long ago when many people would do such things, and there are still many such people today. There are good reasons to make such choices, and they are not just about old habits or family traditions.
I often tell the Sunday School class I teach that I am a big-tent Christian, that we’re going to share space in heaven with the Presbyterians across the street and with other followers of Christ. I’m a great respecter of people of all faiths; but, again, there are reasons to be Baptist beyond tradition, convenience or comfort.
Texas Baptists Committed understands this and wants to help more Texas Baptists learn what it means to be a Baptist. Teaching members of Baptist churches the “importance of historic Baptist distinctives — such as soul competency, the priesthood of every believer, and separation of church and state — is the responsibility of the free and faithful Baptists,” Bill writes.
BGCT Executive Director-Emeritus Bill Pinson has long been involved in this conversation, as well, writing and speaking eloquently about the importance of our Baptist distinctives.
I applaud these efforts. Those distinctives are important for a number of reasons, but they are most important because we believe they enable people to more clearly hear and respond to the call of God upon their lives and to make a difference in the world around them.
We Baptists exalt only one — Jesus, the Christ. We shouldn’t exalt the name Baptist; but we should understand what it means to be a Baptist and how Scripture supports this understanding of being the body of Christ at work in the world today.
Thank you, TBC, Bill Pinson and other Texas Baptists who understand that being a Baptist-type of Christ follower has real meaning and is important to teach to members of our congregations, especially the young and emerging leaders.