By Chris McRae, BCI Discipleship Team Leader
Who’d a Thunk It?
I wasn’t born this way. That’s not my excuse. Neither am I naturally inclined towards such a disposition. That doesn’t explain it. You might say that I was even raised to know better. None of that really mattered in the long run. Here I am, late in life, dealing with the fallout of having encountered Pilate’s pseudo-philosophical question and arriving at an answer that would satisfy my heart. The end of the enquiry was that I decided to align my life with the One Who Is Truth.
Having been brought down by the Hound of Heaven, I secondarily chose to align myself with Baptists. They were, after all, the ones who’d introduced me to the Answer to the question I had. We all know though that legions come and go in denominational life.
So, now I’m a Baptist. I mean, I don’t wear Baptist paraphernalia. I don’t think that Baptists hang the moon or pipe the tune. Accoutrements mean little and traditions perhaps less. But here I am, right out in the open, acknowledging, yes, even trumpeting, my allegiance and affiliation with Baptists.
What is it that makes such a statement even possible? Why am I so willing to identify as a Baptist? I really should know better, as I have intimated. There are two primary reasons.
The Word of God as Complete and Reliable
I had come to belief with a squishy understanding that the Bible was important. But nobody I knew took any of it seriously. Wasn’t it just a bunch of nice Sunday School stories for kids. Certainly, any truly educated person should be cognizant of and intimate with the men and women, the timeless tales, and the lessons in virtue and vice contained therein? But that was about it.
The gift of faith was strong in this one. The Word of God is alive and life-giving. It grows and blossoms and bears fruit. Even as an immature believer I longed for the living water that satisfied my heart as it pierced me with the Sword of Truth and exposed my self-absorbed heart for the wretched reality in which it habituated. As a brand new believer coming of age during the infamous Battle for the Bible I made a conscious decision. I would stand alongside those who would hold as steadfast to the Reliable Written Word as they do to the Incarnate Living Word.
Thus I found myself aligned with the Baptists who hold God’s Word as the Revealer intended. Who honor it not simply with lip-service or eye-service but in service to the King and his kingdom. He has spoken truly and with a trustworthy voice. And so, that Voice calls us and compels us to act.
Cooperation as Compelling and Practical
There are things we simply cannot do on our own. Though the image I have of myself is more akin to Clark Kent than it is to Rodney Dangerfield, I have to acknowledge – at least in private moments – that I really can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound. My exalted view of self has come up against those who are so clearly superior to me in so many ways that it would be ludicrous to deny and comical to recount. Still, my ego knows few bounds especially when it comes to limitations on my insight and wisdom. The short of it is though, that I need to be in partnership with others if I am ever going to be able to meaningfully contribute to the accomplishment of kingdom purposes to which Christ has clearly called his church.
To my knowledge, and in my experience, Baptists, and our particular flavor of Baptists (Southern), work together in cooperation as well as any…and better than most. Of course we make mistakes and mess things up. Any organization can fall prey to bureaucratic inefficiencies and even a stodgy malaise compounded by incompetence and a poor work ethic. While not excusing such, there is much opportunity for grace to abound. It was a long time ago when a wise man reminded me — mid-rant against the bad behavior of other believers — that, “All God ever has to work with in any of our lives, are the mistakes we make.” Suitably chastised, I have made an effort to be more supportive and less critical.
All of that to say, I’m thrilled to be a part of a group of believers who work together, sometimes harmoniously, sometime acrimoniously. Together we: 1) Pursue our passionate God with all that we are in order to become all that he envisions for us; 2) Seek others’ best even when it comes at the expense of our own agenda, our own ease and our own self-interest; 3) Speak good news boldly and with compassion in our traumatized world to those captivated by sin so they too can experience the true freedom that enables them to live as they ought; 4) Fully embrace those who are different than we are, yet with whom we share the ties of family in order to bring outcasts into the inner circle; 5) Equip God’s people for effective and productive service for his kingdom in this world. In short, together we obey Jesus’ directive to make disciples.
In Southern Baptist life we do this through combining our gifts, resources, talents and energies through agencies, ministries, programs, projects and personnel. One avenue for this is often referred to as the Cooperative Program (CP for short and for those who love the alphabet soup of denominational nomenclature). Here we join forces to exalt God, expand his kingdom and enjoy his presence together. Let’s increase our commitment to working together through the Cooperative Program.
The End of It
Oh, the name probably doesn’t mean much to you. You couldn’t imagine caring less about some sort of “denominational” affiliation. But you might be a Baptist anyway. Very often I’ve found that to be the case over the years. “Oh, this is a Baptist church, I didn’t know that,” says the long-time attender.
We can let others define us. We can cower on the fringes of the public square.
But what we need to do is grow up and engage our culture, unafraid of what they think about us. Caring only for what they think of our Savior. Therein is wisdom. Engaging those around us, those within our sphere of influence, those with whom we’ve lived and shared and loved and fought…engaging them with the beguiling wonder of our beautiful Savior.
My mother’s still not sure whether this is just a phase I’m going through or what. I think, though, after 40 years it’s taken hold. What about you?
If you hold the Written Word in high regard, taking it seriously, if not literally…then you too might be a Baptist. If you consider the Word of God in light of the Living Word of God to be the source of life, the way of joy, the reality of truth, you might be a Baptist. If you put a priority on working with other believers to accomplish the greater good in the kingdom of God for the glory of God, you might just be a Baptist. Imagine that!