What comes to mind when you hear “Baptists”?

Maybe some good memories of a potluck or hymn sing or revival you once attended. Perhaps, a joke. Or, maybe something more negative – like Bible-Thumpers who yell or shout hellfire and brimstone.

Some baggage has sometimes been associated with the word “Baptist” – leading some Baptist Churches to stop using the name altogether. We believe that, while we are a flawed group of people (like all Christians), there is much to value about being Baptist. Though, of course, it is always secondary to what we value about being Christians – and brothers and sisters of Christians in other Christian groups and denominations.

Lordship of Christ

Baptists believe that Christ is head of his church. Each church is “autonomous,” but that shouldn’t mean we think “we’re the ones in charge.” It is Christ who is “in charge.” That’s what it means to say “Jesus is Lord.” And, as members of the body of Christ, each church member is empoweredby the Spirit to discern His will in interpreting the Scriptures together.

Freedom to Serve

Churches are each under the Lordship of Christ, but we willingly and joyfully partner in ministry and ministry with one another on mission. We each bring our unique Spirit-given gifts. We each benefit from one another. Baptists, from the beginning, have also championed freedom for all people to worship according to conscience. That is, to worship, or not to worship, without being forced or compelled to do so or not to do so. Even in eras and places where those labelled heretics were punished by law, Baptists said right belief can’t be forced by the punishment of the state. Baptists arecertain service to God is crucial—but it must be service freely given. Thomas Helwys (1576-1616), one of the first Baptists, was even put in Newgate prison for this belief!

Covenant Community

The church is a covenanted community. A covenant is a promise. The Lord has saved us, shown us great mercy and love, and made us a new people. The church is the body of believers united to one another to live as followers of Christ in that newness of life. We gather to Worship him through hearing and proclaiming the word and celebrating the Lord’s Supper and Baptism as Jesus commanded. In living in Jesus’ new life, we learn to love and trust God and live well with one another, with mutual accountability and encouragement. We each have responsibilities to minister to one another.

Church of Believers

In different times and places, a common misunderstanding is that being Christian was something like being a citizen of a country—something you are because of where you are born, regardless of your beliefs or faith. Against this view, Baptists have consistently emphasized the importance a church of “regenerate believers.” That is, being a Christian isn’t about what place, or what family, you’re born into.

Here are where the themes come together: The church is made up of those who have decided to follow the Lord Jesus and become part of the covenant community, united to freely serve, under the Lordship of Christ. We recognize there are many genuine Christians and faithful churches who do not practice confession and then baptism, in that order. Mount Hermon does not require professing Christians, who were Baptized as infants in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to be (re-)baptized to become members.

At the same time, our own practice of baptism is in accordance with what we believe the New Testament teaches. We baptize upon confession of faith in Jesus. We proclaim that decision to follow Jesus, and recognize God’s work of salvation, through Baptism in the name of the one true God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.