What Makes Southern Baptists Unique?

Next week is the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. This is a unique meeting of churches in that it is

technically the only time the Southern Baptist Convention exists. Two days a year like minded churches come together for mutual

encouragement and cooperation on issues such as missions, theology, and culture. Those churches are called Southern

Baptists but operate independently from one another with only one overarching head, that is Jesus Christ. Here are some of our

distinctives, the doctrines upon which we agree and which allow us to be called together as Southern Baptists.

Lordship of Christ — Jesus is the head of the church, but His rule is not simply relegated to the church. Whether the world

chooses to acknowledge the fact or not, Jesus Christ is Lord over all the earth (Eph. 4:15; Phil. 2:10–11; Col. 1:15–20).

Biblical Authority — The Bible, holy Scripture, is the inerrant Word of God. It is by Scripture that we govern all matters of church and life (2 Tim. 3:16; John 17:17; Heb. 4:12).

Religious freedom — We believe true faith cannot be forced upon anyone, neither by state nor by family. Each person must make their own decision to repent and believe in Christ (Matt 22:21; Rom. 10:9–13; 14:12).

Autonomy of the local church — Each congregation is autonomous and able to choose its own leaders, properties, and beliefs (as long as they don’t violate the core tenets of Christianity). There is no religious hierarchy outside of the local church (Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:22–23).

Regenerate church membership — Church membership is reserved only for those with a credible testimony of faith in Jesus Christ. We also believe that all Christians have direct access to God through faith in Christ, a doctrine known as the priesthood of believers (Acts 2:41–42; Heb. 4:14–16; 1 Peter 2:5).

Two ordinances — The church recognizes two ordinances: (1) baptism of believers by way of immersion in water, (2) the Lord’s Supper as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. These are mandated symbolic observances of the church. They are not sacraments in that they do nothing to contribute toward one’s salvation (Matt. 28:19–20; Act 2:41; 1 Cor. 11:23–26; Eph.2:8–9).

There is more to being a Southern Baptist than this handful of distinctives but there is certainly not less. We believe that the Bible teaches clearly on these matters and we are proud to stand together in our agreement on them. Consider these distinctives as you pray for next week’s convention. May that gathering honor Christ and invigorate His people. May the work of the gospel thrive through the work of Southern Baptist churches!

Pastor Josh

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