Baptist churches have been around for over 400 years and one of the primary reasons we developed as a separate group within the Christian Church is because we are absolutely committed to the idea of freedom.
We believe every individual believer is free to access God and serve Him in his or her own way (within biblical lines). For this reason Baptist churches are often very different from each other. Some are very traditional, others very radical, and others are somewhere inbetween. We have no prayer book, no bishops, no heirarchies. We are committed to each church being free to shape its own style, language and ministries.
But there are many things we share in common …
Becoming a Christian
We are an evangelical church. We believe the Bible to be God’s inspired word for us. We look to the Bible to discover the mind of God and therefore our life values. We believe in the great biblical truth of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The atoning death and resurrection of Jesus, salvation by faith through God’s grace.
A full statement of beliefs is available from all Baptist churches or from the Baptist Union in each state.
How is the Church organised?
The church is a group of people who have all made a personal commitment to Jesus. While every individual involved in the church is gifted for different roles we believe everyone is equal before God.
The Holy Spirit is working within each Christian equipping, directing and encouraging. Each church member therefore has the ability and responsibility to listen for God’s direction for themselves and the church.
Therefore Baptist churches organise themselves with the following points in mind:
- Christ, not any particular individual, is the head of the church.
- Church meetings are an opportunity for everyone to express where they believe God is leading.
- God’s leading is ultimately tested in the concensus of a church meeting.
- The church does not try to tell anybody exactly what they should believe, but each individual seeks the truth of God personally.
Who runs the Church?
We all do! But we recognise that certain individuals are personally gifted to provide leadership in the church. The church itself will recognise an individual as having the right gifts and abilities for leadership. The church then allows the individual to use his or her gifts to lead the group.
So while the church members themselves run the affairs of the church, they empower certain types of leadership. Pastors are responsible for the overall direction and biblical teaching in the church. The deacons usually deal with matters of administration. Elders become involved with the personal and spiritual concerns of the church members.
Leadership is not a right to authority or personal power, but rather an individual using his or her skills for the good of the church. Leaders are elected by and accountable to the church itself.
What about Baptism? Isn’t that why you’re called Baptists?
Yes, we do have a particular view on baptism, but again it has to do with our greater commitment to freedom. We believe that the symbol of being baptised (being plunged under water and then brought up again) is an illustration of burial and resurrection. This indicates a believer re-enacting Jesus’ death and resurrection as being substitute for his or her own.
For this reason, we baptise believers who are free to choose faith in Christ and we prefer baptism by full immersion. Baptism does not make a person right with God, but is an expression of an inner spiritual commitment. Any Christian wanting to make this commitment should speak to their pastor.
Do you celebrate communion?
Yes, we do. Jesus gave his disciples a way of remembering Him, by sharing together bread and wine. It reminds us today of the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. Baptists encourage all Christians present at their communion services to share in the Lord’s Supper, no matter what their church background might be.
It is usually celebrated once or twice a month and we use small pieces of bread and grape juice to follow Jesus’ example. Usually stewards serve the members of the congregation in their seats.
The world we live in
While we are only passing through this world, God calls us to be concerned for it. This means we are deeply concerned about such issues as poverty, justice, freedom, equality and the environment. We understand that the Bible does not draw distinction between people’s spiritual and physical wellbeing, and we are committed to caring for both.
How can I become a Baptist Church member?
We are more than glad to welcome all visitors and guests at our services. But if you would like to engage fully in the life of a local Baptist Church, we invite you to apply for church membership. Membership is open to all who have freely committed themselves as Christians and expressed this in baptism. Each church has the right to decide who is able to become a member. All church members have equal rights and personal liberty.
Are you a large group of churches?
Today there are about 72,000 of us in hundreds of churches in every state of Australia. Each local church is autonomous (self-governed) but we voluntarily link together with other churches to form a Baptist Union in each state, who together form the Baptist Union of Australia. The first Baptists came into being in Europe as part of the Reformation which swept that continent. Baptists came to Australia in 1831 and today we have fraternal links through the Baptist World Alliance with more than 41 million in our worldwide Christian family which now numbers 1.3 billion.
Source: Baptist Churches of NSW & ACT – www.baptistnsw.asn.au