Category Archives for Ecclesiology

What the Church Is

September 22, 2011

By Dan Nelson, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Camarillo, CA

Great confusion exists over what the church is. If we understand what the church is and what God wants to do through us in the church, then we can function as the body of Christ. This will help us to grow as Christians.

There are several reasons for the confusion that exists over what the church is. Luther did not get it right in the Protestant reformation. He affirmed the way a person is saved is by grace through faith in Christ’s sacrifice for us, but he retained the invisible church, retained infant baptism, and the Lord’s Supper remained more than a memorial ordinance. Just because non-denominational groups are everywhere does not mean God can not use them. These groups go to visible churches to take up offerings. A recent Christian televangelist said, “Take your money and send it to a spirit-filled church.” The assumption is every believer makes up the church. They comprise the kingdom of God but not the church.

I want to help you understand what the church really is if you will hear with the word of God. I do so that we can be the church as the body of Christ in this community.
Continue reading

Distinctive Baptist Beliefs:
Nine Marks that Separate Baptists from Presbyterians
Distinctive Baptist Belief #8:
Two Scriptural Officers — (Pastor/Bishop/Elder and Deacon
(not Three Officers –Pastor/Bishop, Elder, and Deacon)

September 21, 2011

By Dr. Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology, Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and Editor of the
Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


All denominations that broadly share the Reformation heritage share more beliefs in common (orthodox Nicean Christianity plus key Reformation beliefs) than beliefs on which we differ. Despite these many points of agreement, it is the points of agreement on which theological discussions tend to focus. In an earlier post entitled “The Middle Way,” I asserted that centrist Baptists are “the middle way” between Arminians and Calvinists/Presbyterians. As evidence for this claim, I listed twelve points of doctrinal disagreement between centrist Baptists and many Arminians. Now, in this series, I am pointing out nine points of difference between centrist Baptist beliefs and the Presbyterian/ Reformed tradition. These nine Baptist doctrinal distinctives I will discuss do not include the five point summary of Reformed soteriology (best known in the TULIP acronym–for a critique of five-point Calvinism from a centrist Baptist perspective see our book Whosoever Will). In fact, most of the nine points that I will be addressing were explicitly held by the Particular Baptists in contradistinction from the Presbyterian or Reformed theology from which they separated themselves. These, then, are distinctively Baptist beliefs. The first Baptist distinctive I addressed was a cluster of interrelated beliefs — soul competency, priesthood of all believers, and religious liberty. The second Baptist distinctive addressed was the age (or state) of accountability; the third Baptist distinctive I addressed was believer’s baptism (or “the gathered church;” and the fourth Baptist distinctive was baptism by mode of immersion, the fifth Baptist distinctive (in contrast with Presbyterian Calvinism) was baptism and the Lord’s Supper as symbolic ordinances, not sacraments; the sixth Baptist distinctive addressed congregational church polity (in contrast to Presbyterian elder rule); and the seventh Baptist distinctive, examined the autonomy of the local church and how it is not a hierarchical denomination. For the eighth Baptist distinctive, I will describe the two scriptural officers (Pastor/Bishop/Elder and Deacon) and how they are not three (Pastor/Bishop, Elder and Deacon).[1] Continue reading

Accepting New Church Members: A Biblical/Baptist Perspective

April 28, 2011

Robin Foster, Pastor, Immanuel Baptist Church, Perkins, OK

In discussing the restoration of integrity in church membership, there has been a great resurgence in the biblical practice of church discipline.  Not that many Southern Baptist churches are initiating this biblical practice in their churches (personally I don’t know of any in our association), but there has been a grand discussion and even a resolution on church discipline ( offered at the 2008 SBC convention concerning this vital ministry to help a wayward brother or sister find their way back to Christ and full fellowship with the body.  I for one applaud this and hope it will take root and continue to grow.  But, as a pastor, I believe there is a bigger concern with how we accept members in the first place.  In other words, can we take care of any issues before someone becomes a member of the church?  It is my contention that many problems in our churches today are the result of poor admission traditions that have been practiced by our churches for at least the last 100 years.

The typical custom for accepting members among Southern Baptist churches is for a candidate to walk forward during the invitation.  Of course the normal questions are asked: “Have you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior and trust Him for the forgiveness of your sins?” and “Where and how were you baptized?” all the while checking the person for a pulse on their wrist.  While this parody is a bit of tongue in cheek, unfortunately, this short method of Q & A is often used as the congregation sings several verses of “Just as I Am.”  If the candidate correctly responds to both questions, the pastor then turns to those attending that morning (unfortunately, in most cases, some voting are non-members) for a vote on accepting this person as a member in good standing of the church.  In a sizable number of cases, the person has no idea of the church doctrines, covenant, order, or responsibilities of church membership.  What is most tragic is that the person says yes to these questions as a matter of rote and may not truly understand the gospel or salvation.  After all they were baptized as a kid, right?  Surely they are saved.  Unfortunately, I am finding more and more that people are looking to their baptism as their point of salvation, rather than to their conviction of sin before a Holy and Just God, seeking His mercy and grace through the atoning death of His Son, Jesus. Continue reading