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Are you ashamed of being a Baptist?

 


We don't need to be: it seems that people outside the church like key Baptist principles. Maybe we need to be more confident in our identity, writes Michael Shaw




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The other day I needed a haircut and beard trim. Naturally, I went to a local barber to get that done, prepared for the usual weird conversations you tend to have. The previous time I had talked in-depth about my daughter's adoption process. I had just come back from a trip to Cyprus and thought that might be the topic of conversation. Instead it went into an area I never expected.
 
He asked me where I had been (dropped my wife and daughter at the Aquarium) and what I was doing next (going to a work meeting).

'Who are you meeting with?' he asked.

Well, I was meeting my local cluster of ministers for lunch (we meet every week to pray for each other and have lunch together in Plymouth). So I had to explain I was a Baptist minister and that I was meeting other Baptist ministers.
 
'So what’s a Baptist then?' he continued.

Now I wasn’t going to go in depth into the Declaration of Principle, (keep it light, I thought). I simply said that we believed that you should only baptise people when they are ready, and that I would not impose my beliefs on my child, only when she was ready.

To my surprise, he not only liked it he wanted to know more. I then talked a little on freedom of religion and he liked that. Sadly the conversation moved on to his love of eastern beliefs but I think he was quite surprised that, in his words, I was so “liberal”.
 
I explained that not all Baptists would consider themselves liberal, especially some on the Southern States of America, to which he replied 'but those are the kind of churches that give Christianity a bad name'. About this, I could not really disagree with him.
 
But the conversation made me realise something: when I start talking about certain key areas of Baptist principle with people outside the church, most people think it sounds much better than what they think a church would believe. What is also funny is that I have had conversations with people inside Baptist churches, many for years, who did not understand basic Baptist beliefs and say 'I thought we were just like other Evangelical churches.'
 
When I look at key Baptist values - like believers' baptism, separation of church and state, freedom of religion, congregational governance - all are liked by people outside the church, but not understood or known by many inside Baptist churches.

Maybe we need to be more confident in our identity and better in not being ashamed of what we believe?

 

 

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The Revd Michael Shaw is minister of Devonport Community Baptist Church, Plymouth

 

 



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Baptist Times, 20/11/2018
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