I come from the Baptist tradition.  I was born again, baptized, and discipled under the ministry of a Baptist church which the Lord used to bring me to Himself back in 1974.  Every church I have belonged to has been a Baptist church.  Over the years I have preached in many non-Baptist churches and have had many students who were not technically Baptists.  I have read a ton of good literature in biblical studies and ministry pursuits by those who would not call themselves Baptists.  From the earliest days of my Christian experience, I have prayed with believers who did not share my Baptist convictions.  I have never been the kind of Baptist who looked down on other Bible-believing Christians from other traditions.  However, the opposite has not been true.  There have been many other believers who have expressed a measure of disdain for my Baptist heritage.  I have sometimes wondered why this is so.  Sometimes individual Baptist churches and individuals have acted in such a way to deserve this backlash.  However, on the whole I have trouble having a negative attitude about Baptists due to my positive experience in the Baptist churches I have been part of (not perfect but positive).

In pondering this, I thought about what it means to be a Baptist.  Many lists have been cited giving Baptist Distinctives.  Almost all of them highlight biblical authority in some fashion.  However, does belief in biblical authority by Baptists really differ that much from Luther and Calvin and other Bible-believing non-Catholics?  In the basics it does not seem to be a higher view of Scripture than the Reformers.  Consequenlty, many Baptists will talk about their distinctives as a “package” that on the whole has some uniqueness.  However, I would like to suggest that the Baptist historians of the modern Baptist movement have done a better job than Baptist theologians at highlighting a unique contribution that Baptists have made relative to biblical authority.  Baptists brought into view more clearly the idea of New Testament priority for doing church (some might put the Anabaptists in this discussion).  To put it another way, one should go to the New Testament for the pattern for the local church.  The significance of the local church is at the heart of the Baptist tradition.  This tradition is based upon the Bible.  That is why Baptists, perhaps more than many other evangelicals, are concerned about the nature of the church as much as its mission.