What is a Baptist?

There are many different Christian churches and it can get a bit confusing. We recognise our fellowship with all other Christian groups. We have far more in common with them than we have differences. We particularly enjoy working together with the other local Blockhouse Bay churches. Many in our church family do not think of themselves as Baptist but simply worship with us because this is the church they have made their home for other reasons. However some of us do find value in being “Baptist” which is OK as long as we remember to be Christian first!

So what are some key features of Baptists?

1. Freedom of Conscience

Historically Baptist churches arose out of times of religious persecution by various states in Europe. Baptists have always advocated for a separation between religion and secular power so that people have freedom of conscience to worship God.

2. Believers baptism

An obvious way that our emphasis on freedom of conscience is worked out is that we do not baptise infants, we believe baptism should be reserved for those who can choose it and not forced on those who are not yet able. We also prefer to baptise by immersion in water (after all, the word baptism means “immersion”) believing the full immersion of a believer is the biblically and historically correct form of baptism. And that is why we have the name “Baptists”.

3. Autonomous Churches and Congregational Government

Baptist churches are not a true denomination because every baptist church is autonomous, which means it governs its own affairs. There is no hierarchy or other structure over the church to control it. Most baptist churches in NZ are part of the Baptist Union which is a network that exists to support, resource and encourage Baptist churches. These autonomous churches are ultimately governed by the members of the congregation, those believers who have committed to being a part of the church and who support its ministry. These members meet during the year to hold the church leadership accountable and to discern God’s will for the church’s future.

Baptists are also often known for a strong emphasis on Bible teaching and evangelism. These are excellent traits to have but are not distinctly Baptist traits as many other churches have them also.