Monday, July 15

Ecuadorian Baptist Identity

In Ecuador, what is it that makes a Baptist a Baptist? Is it our traditions and practices brought to us by the first Baptist missionaries who arrived in 1950? Our programs and literature?  Our contextualized understanding of Scriptural mandates and doctrine? Exactly what is it that determines if one is truly an Ecuadorian Baptist, or more identified with some other group of evangelical believers?

I have observed with interest in recent weeks a resurgence amongst many of my Ecuadorian Baptist brethren the expressed need to clearly identify what it is we believe as Baptists. In an evangelical world that is fragmented almost beyond recognition, many are wanting to define positions on a number of contemporary issues, including: church polity, same sex marriage, the church's involvement in social ministries, Christians in the political arena, education, the role of the State within church convictions, Baptist distinctives, role of women in ministry, etc.

One of the earliest attempts to define who Baptists are is the London Baptist Confession 1644/1646. While too long to quote in its entirety, I pulled a few of the articles that caught my attention. As I read this document many of their original convictions mirror my own. After each article are my own comments in italics. Some of my observations are particular to our own context here in Ecuador and not necessarily issues in other parts of the world.

XXXVI.
BEING thus joined, every church hath power given them from Christ, for their wellbeing, to choose among themselves meet persons for elders and deacons, being qualified according to the word, as those which Christ hath appointed in His testament, for the feeding, governing, serving, and building up of His Church; and that none have any power to impose either these or any other. Acts 1:23,26,6:3,15:22.25; Rom.12:7,8; 1 Tim.3:2,6.7; 1 Cor. 12:8,28; Heb.13:7,17; 1 Pet.5:1,2,3, 4:15.

"...choose among themselves" seems to be the pattern of those early Baptists who preceded us. The current practice of importing trained professionals from outside the congregation seems foreign to the wording in this article. As is the idea of home-grown plural "elders and deacons" which is in contrast with the more common "Senior Pastor" model which seems to be the norm today.

XXXVII.
THAT the ministers lawfully called, as aforesaid, ought to continue in their calling and place according to God's ordinance, and carefully to feed the flock of God committed to them, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. Heb.5:4; John 10:3,4; Acts 20:28,29; Rom.12:7,8; Heb.13:7.17; 1 Pet.5: 1.2,3.

"...ought to continue in their calling and place..." means to me that if they are a school teacher, they are to continue in that profession and not abandon it for the ministry. Our modern idea of having full-time professional church ministers seems out of tune with this earlier confession of Baptist belief and practice.

XXXIX.
BAPTlSM is an ordinance of the New Testament, given by Christ, to be dispensed upon persons professing faith, or that are made disciples; who upon profession of faith, ought to be baptized, and after to partake of the Lord's Supper. Matt.28:18,19; John 4:1; Mark 16:15,16; Acts 2:37.38, 8:36,37,etc.

"...to be dispensed upon persons professing faith..." is the only prerequisite for baptism. In many Baptist contexts, especially in Ecuador, other prerequisites are often added to that of "professing faith"--usually in the insistence that the person requesting baptism be legally married (not living in adultery/fornication) before consideration is given to their profession of faith.

XLI.
THE person designed by Christ to dispense baptism, the Scripture holds forth to be a disciple; it being no where tied to a particular church officer, or person extraordinarily sent the commission enjoining the administration, being given to them as considered disciples, being men able to preach the gospel. Isa.8:16; Eph.2:7; Matt.28:19; John 4:2; Acts 20:7,11:10; 1 Cor.11:2, 10:16,17; Rom.16:2; Matt.18:17.

The administrator of baptism are disciples. No where in Scripture is baptism tied to a particular church office. Our modern practice (especially overseas where this is an issue) of only ordained, recognized church leaders being the only ones authorized to baptize seems to contradict not only our Baptist forefathers but Scripture itself.

XLII.
CHRIST hath likewise given power to His Church to receive in, and cast out, any member that deserves it; and this power is given to every congregation, and not to one particular person, either member or officer, but in relation to the whole body, in reference to their faith and fellowship. Rom.16:2; Matt.18:17; 1 Cor.5:4,11,13;12:6;2:3; 2 Cor.2:6,7.

Again, what caught my attention is that "power" is in the body of believers, and not in any particular sub-group or special persons like it is in many Baptist churches here in Ecuador (usually the pastor.)

XLVII.
AND although the particular congregations be distinct, and several bodies, every one as a compact and knit city within itself; yet are they all to walk by one rule of truth; so also they (by all means convenient) are to have the counsel and help one of another, if necessity require it, as members of one body, in the common faith, under Christ their head. 1 Cor.4:17, 14:33,36,16:1; Ps.122:3; Eph.2:12,19: Rev.2:1; 1 Tim.3:15, 6:13,14; 1 Cor.4:17; Acts 15:2,3; Song of Sol.8:8.9; 2 Cor.8:1.4, 13:14.

While meeting in various geographic locations around the city, the "several bodies" are to "have the counsel and help one of another..." How I wish we could get back to this basic practice of understanding that we are all one in Christ and in need of one another. We are to be there for one another and not separate ourselves from our brothers in our own mini church kingdoms.

XLV.
Also such to whom God hath given gifts in the church, may and ought to prophecy [viz., teach] according to the proportion of faith, and to teach publicly the word of God, for the edification, exhortation, and comfort of the church. 1 Cor. 14:3, etc.; Rom 12:6; 1 Pet. 4:10, 11; 1 Cor. 12:7; 1 Thess. 5:19, etc.

This is nothing more than direct teaching from Paul out of I Corinthians 14. Yet we have taken away from the people to publicly prophecy/teach and hired out professionals to edify, exhort, and comfort the church.


Comments? Oberservations? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

10 comments:

Johnny Maust said...

Excellent blog, Guy. We really need to get back to our Baptist (or should I say, Biblical) roots, and see these points being done in our churches. I long for the churches that we start to follow these articles!Can you put your blog into Spanish?
I was just talking with a seeker about some of these things yesterday, and seeing this behavior in churches has kept him from becoming a Christian. I hope he becomes a member of a church that practices Biblical Christianity, and maybe become the founder of that group!

J. Guy Muse said...

The problem I keep running into locally is that everyone seems to have their own idea of what a Baptist is, and if one does not agree with every aspect with them, that person is "not a Baptist."

I wish we could get beyond talking about Baptist distinctives and focus on becoming Kingdom People. The term "Baptist" seems to conjure up more infighting than it does harmony. We are first and foremost Kingdom Citizens. THAT is our identity.

David M. Blanton said...

Guy, Article XLVII resonates with me in my current role as Director of Missions for a Baptist Association. Outside the local church, the coming together as local congregations to do ministry is the only other New Testament model. This is also a Baptist distinction: collaborating together to impact the community and the world with the Gospel. Sadly, we have made the priority the building of mini-kingdoms that advance the name of the pastor or the local congregation rather than advancing the glory of Christ. This is one of my biggest concerns as I seek to mobilize churches to work together. We have so elevated church with a little "c" that we have failed to realize that we are part of the Church with a big "C".

J. Guy Muse said...

David,

Couldn't agree with you more. What might be accomplished for the Kingdom if we would lay aside our own kingdoms and join together as one for HIS Kingdom? What you write is very similar to what we have observed locally. As the song goes, "united we stand, divided we fall."

Dennis Brown said...

I would also like to point out the phrase "as a compact and knit city within itself". Rhey viewed the church as distinct from the greater society around it, that is, they saw themselves as Pilgrim's and Sojourner's living in a distinct way from the broader culture around them.

J. Guy Muse said...

Dennis,

Yes. I have just finished a book entitled "Heaven On Earth" which is a wonderful description of the Kingdom of God wherein we are truly citizens of a different kingdom than the kingdoms of this earth. While most of us give intellectual assent to this, we certainly do not live our lives as if it were so.

Steve Finnell said...

THE ELECTED!

Can those elected by God resist that calling?


ELECT-ELECTED-ELECTION: Defined (Adjective, signifies picked out, chosen.) (Noun, denotes a picking out, selection, then, that which is chosen).


Elected means chosen. There is a view held by many that when God elects or chooses people that they cannot resist God's calling. Israel was God's elect or chosen people. God did not just select certain Jews to be saved and other Jews to be lost. Salvation was offered to the whole nation of Israel.


Deuteronomy 7:6 For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the people who are on the face of the earth.


The Jews were God's elect. Did any of them ever reject that election? Yes they did; because they had free-will.


1 Samuel 8:7 The Lord said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.


They rejected God as king.


Numbers 14:11 The Lord said to Moses, "How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?


These people were the elect of God, but they would not believe in Him. Even though they were God's elect He did not force them to believe and obey Him. THEY HAD FREE-WILL.


Acts 7:51 "You men who are stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.


Israel was God's chosen people; they were His elect, however, they always resisted the Holy Spirit. Most of them rejected Jesus as the Christ. THEY HAD FREE-WILL.


Does God arbitrarily condemn some men to hell and elect a chosen few for salvation? NO, HE DOES NOT!


WHO ARE THE ELECT OF GOD TODAY?


Acts 10:34-43 Opening his mouth, Peter said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. 36......Jesus Christ....43 Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness from sins.


WHO ARE THE ELECT OF GOD TODAY? All who believe in Jesus Christ. Yes, everyone has the chance to become the elect, the chosen of God.


Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.


WHO ARE GOD'S CHOSEN PEOPLE? WHO ARE GOD'S ELECT? EVERY JEW AND EVERY GREEK WHO MEETS GOD'S TERMS FOR PARDON UNDER THE NEW COVENANT ARE THE ELECT OF GOD. THEY ARE ALL GOD'S CHOSEN PEOPLE.


GOD HAS OFFERED SALVATION TO ALL WHO BELIEVE IN JESUS THE CHRIST.

You are invited to follow my Christian blog at: steve-finnell.blogspot.com or you may google search steve finnell a christian view.

Irma said...

This is cool!

Unknown said...

Our identity should only be in Christ. To insert additional identities between us in Him is a barrier to the gospel and the growth of the church in unity.

There are so many different and contradicting representations of people called "baptist" that it is really meaningless.

To take one doctrine and name ourselves after it has no Biblical basis. It is merely a tradition of men. These always distract and confuse the saints and the lost away from Christ.

I think this naming notion to differentiate one group from another is part of institutionalism which is largely driven by the money and hierarchy involved in man driven connections. Naming is inseparably connected to the assumption that you need special facilities and corporation dynamics to accomplish the work of God. This is a focus on a city build by man rather than a city whose maker is God.

Jose Nunez said...

Great post!!! very great!!! Thanks God that we can trace these seeds in history