By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
First Baptist Church
My subject is this: “A Baptist Church By Another Name Is A Baptist Church Just The Same.” The reason for writing about this subject is simply the fact that many Baptists seem to think that if a church does not use the word “Baptist” in its name, it must not, therefore, believe what Baptists believe. But this is a serious mistake. And this mistake leads to another serious mistake, which is the fact that some Baptist church planters will start new churches in towns or in rural areas outside of towns, because, so they claim, those towns or areas do not have Baptist churches. These church planters, though well-meaning, either do not know, or do not believe, that a church can be thoroughly Biblical without having the word “Baptist” in its name. But the fact is, the Bible, which many church planters rightly consider to be the only infallible and God-given authority upon which to base their doctrines, does not say a church must use the word “Baptist” to be a Biblical church. Not one of the churches referred to in the New Testament was called a “Baptist” church. If the Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles had believed that Biblical churches must be called “Baptist” churches, they would have said so. It would have been stated in the writings of the New Testament. But, churches began to be called “Baptist” churches after the New Testament was written and the apostles were dead. I am not saying or implying that it is wrong for a church to use the word “Baptist” in its name. But I am saying it IS wrong to say a church MUST use that word in its name in order to be Biblical.
Now, because a church can be thoroughly Biblical even if it is not called a “Baptist” church, what Baptist church planters should do before starting a church in a town or area is to look into the beliefs of the churches that are already there. If the church planters discover that a church holds to the same beliefs as the church planter himself, he needs to reconsider starting a new church in that location. This is especially true in a very small town or rural area with a very small population. The reason is simple: to start a new church in a very small town, or in a rural area with a very small population that already has a church with the same beliefs has potential to harm that church by drawing people away from it. Why would we want to weaken good churches in locations where the going is tough the way it is? Would the Lord Jesus Christ have us do so? Would his apostles have us do so? The answer to both questions is “No.” Rather, the Lord and his apostles would have us look for locations that really do not have Biblical churches.
Let us now move on to a point related to this subject. It is this: Christians need to be taught that a church can be thoroughly Biblical even if it does not have the word “Baptist” in its name. As stated above, not one of the churches referred to in the New Testament was called a “Baptist” church. Christians need to be taught that what makes a church Biblical is not its name, but its beliefs and practices. When Christians learn this truth, it will have positive results. One of those results is that when they visit a town or an area that does not have a church with the word “Baptist” in it, there might be another good church to attend. The same is true if a Christian is considering moving to a new location.
So, then, what do Baptist churches believe that many other churches not called “Baptist” also believe? They believe in the authority of the Bible’s teachings concerning our beliefs and behavior, in the local church’s autonomy, in the priesthood of all believers, in the local church’s two symbolic ordinances (believer’s baptism and the Lord’s supper), in individual soul liberty (direct accountability to God concerning matters of conscience), in the separation of church and state (instead of a state church), in two officers in the local church (pastors and deacons), and in a saved church membership ( thus excluding infant membership and membership of non-Christians).