I’ve been asked more than a few times over the last couple of years to offer a Wednesday night study on what it means to be Baptist.
Well, we pastors are eager to please (sometimes too much…more on that in a later post TBD…), so I’m excited to report we’ll be doing just that over the Wednesdays in April.
On April 4 we’ll begin a four-part study on “Being Baptist,” using our own Buddy Shurden’s classic little volume, The Baptist Identity: Four Fragile Freedoms, as our guide. We’ll have a few copies of the book for purchase for $12 at the church office, or you can follow the link and find it on Amazon. Reading along in the book isn’t necessary but may help provide some context and will be well worth your time.
I’m also happy to announce we’ll have some prominent, local Baptist scholars to lead these studies (one of whom is intimately familiar with this book). Rick Wilson will guide us through the first three weeks, and Buddy will lead us the final week.
Our anticipated schedule is as follows:
April 4: Bible Freedom
April 11: Soul Freedom
April 18: Church Freedom
April 25: Religious Freedom
In his introduction, taking his cues from noted Lutheran historian Martin Marty, Buddy argues the Baptist identity is a particular “style” or “posture” of faith, or a “peculiar attitude” toward issues of faith. Baptist identity is “a spirit that pervades all of the Baptist principles or so-called Baptist distinctives. It is the spirit of FREEDOM.”
To folks from other denominations or traditions, talk of even needing to define an “identity” may seem odd. Yet Buddy’s assertion of freedom as the core “spirit” to being Baptist helps explain why such a project is necessary, and ongoing. We Baptists have a hard time pointing to specific founders, and we traditionally have resisted creeds. There’s such diversity among Baptist churches it’s at times difficult to see what binds them together. Often times, the things that do seem to bind them together seem more cultural than theological. In fact, it’s tempting at times to find our identity more in who we are not and what we don’t do than who we are, and what we do when we’re together.
Yet the convictions that have defined Baptists through the generations are powerful, faithful, and in my mind have much to offer the world today—even, and perhaps especially in these times of great uncertainty for churches and people of faith.
But we’ll only be able to offer these gifts of our tradition if we know them ourselves. I hope you’ll join us in April as we aim to do just that.
PS-- I especially want to encourage our many new members and other visitors who have come to us from other traditions to join us for what will be a great introduction to Baptist life. Also, plan to join us after worship on April 22 when we'll have lunch and an "Into to FBCX" class.