For almost 170 years, Southern Baptists have sought to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people everywhere. The Southern Baptist Convention was formed with a Gospel vision. Its founding charter identifies its singular focus: …for the purpose of eliciting, combining, and directing the energies of the Baptist denomination of Christians, for the propagation of the Gospel…
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has grown to be a network of more than 50,000 cooperating churches and church-type missions banded together to make an impact of God’s Kingdom. While no two Southern Baptist churches are alike, there are certain commonalities that bind Southern Baptists together, regardless of ethnicity, socio-economic status, language, or locale. What we offer here is an overview to help tell the story of what God is doing in and through the people called Southern Baptists.
Who Southern Baptists Are
Southern Baptists are as varied and diverse as the cities, towns, neighborhoods, and rural communities where you may find them. Each autonomous Southern Baptist church is unique; only when viewed together can one grasp the diversity that is the Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Baptist churches represent a broad range in…
- size — very small to very large
- culture — Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western, and every subculture within each region
- age — very young to very old
- ministry setting — inner-city, storefront, suburban, small town, open countryside, cowboy, motorcyle
- ethnicity — Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and numerous other ethnic groups
- worship style — traditional, contemporary, and everything in between
- theological perspective — all within the framework of historic biblical orthodoxy
But to know Southern Baptists means to understand that the center of who and what we are is the Person and Work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Southern Baptists are people who have been redeemed through Christ from sin — the spiritual brokenness that causes us to resist God’s ways and fall short of His glory.
Southern Baptists hold high the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the unifying center around which everything else is built and from which all ministry flows. We use the phrase regenerate church membership to emphasize that the starting point for everything related to a Southern Baptist church is each individual’s personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of their lives.
Southern Baptists believe that each human being is a sinner by birth and by choice, that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We believe that Jesus, “in His substitutionary death on the cross,” made “provision for the redemption of men from sin” and “effected the reconciliation between God and man” (The Baptist Faith and Message, Article II B., God the Son). And we believe that “There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord” (BF&M, Article IV, Salvation).
While the Bible does not teach that the waters of baptism have any saving power (salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, Ephesians 2:8), in keeping with the biblical emphasis reflected in our heritage and name, and as “people of the Book” (the Bible), Southern Baptists believe that all true believers will long to be identified fully with their Lord and Savior through the act of believer’s baptism.
We believe that Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 28:19). It is an act of obedience symbolizing (1) the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, (2) the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus, and (3) the believer’s trust that his or her mortal flesh shall be clothed with immortality in the final resurrection of the dead.
It is by the Gospel, because of the Gospel, and for the Gospel that the Southern Baptist Convention exists; so it only makes sense that everything about Southern Baptists is tied directly to the Gospel.
What Southern Baptists Believe
Southern Baptists believe that the Bible reveals the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. For that reason, Southern Baptists have summarized their biblical convictions in the confession of faith already cited, The Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M). While Southern Baptists are not acreedal people, requiring churches or individuals to embrace a standardized set of beliefs, they are a confessional people. The BF&Mrepresents the confessional consensus of “certain definite doctrines that Baptists believe, cherish, and with which they have been and are now closely identified” (BF&M, preamble).
The first five articles of The Baptist Faith & Message affirm the historical, orthodox, evangelical beliefs concerning The Scriptures, the Person and Works of God, the nature and fall of Man, God’s gracious provision of Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone, and God’s Purpose of Grace — that God is the One who initiates and completes the work of salvation.
The next six articles affirm historical, biblical Baptist positions on the Church, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s Day, the Kingdom,the doctrine of Last Things, and Evangelism and Missions.
The final seven articles summarize a number of distinctively Southern Baptist commitments to Christian Higher Education, Stewardship, Cooperation, The Christian and the Social Order, Peace and War, Religious Liberty, and The Family.
The entire Baptist Faith and Message is available online at www.sbc.net/bfm.