Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Very First First Baptist Church

Sometimes it's embarrassing to be a Baptist. Being independent and congregational, just about any church or individual can call themselves a Baptist, even the guy in Arkansas a few years ago who kept his deceased mother in his freezer and held special services attempting to raise her from the dead. No luck.

With all the changes in Southern Baptist life in the past twenty-five years, being a Baptist pastor brings to mind a pretty negative stereotype for many people today. Can't say I blame them either. For many, the word 'Baptist' is a synonym for intolerance, sexism, and a narrow right wing political agenda.

People often ask me about why I am a Baptist or why I'm still a Baptist or why I ever became a Baptist. I have to remind them that being a Baptist has not always meant what it has appeared to mean in these recent years, and I stubbornly refuse to turn loose of the biblical values and timeless truths that Baptists have believed and practiced from the early days.

Bill Webb, editor of Word & Way, has written a fine piece describing his visit to the historic First Baptist Church of America and what a worthy and significant contribution Baptists have made to our national life and to the work of the Kingdom. If you are an occasionally embarrassed Baptist like myself, it will make you proud once again. If, on the other hand, you believe that the recent changes in the SBC have been a positive thing, you might just be surprised by what you read. I love the words on the church's sign. "We reserve the right to accept everybody." That sounds like the Gospel to me. That must make God smile.

4 comments:

Shelby said...

Thank you. This gets me on so many levels.

I linked to this post. It's one all should read. And re-read.

Drew Hill said...

Shelby- You are very welcome. I read your post as well. I think there are many like us out there, "recovering" from religious legalism and general meanness. It helps me to remember it's nothing new - Jesus faced the same thing. And most important, all the bad done in the guise of religion does not undo or negate the good, the beautiful, the compassionate, the accepting, and the serving that truly represent the work of the Kingdom in the Spirit of Christ. So, I try to keep my eyes on those people and places where I can see Jesus.

TC said...

I was raised Methodist. And there was a group of old women from my church that made me dislike organized religion. Looking at them, I believed that if their backstabbing, nasty and manipulative ways were what it took to be a "good Christian," I needed no part in it.

I get the same message from this. It's an issue that goes out to many - if not all - religions at some point in time.

Drew Hill said...

tc- You're right. There are few things uglier than religious hypocrisy. Seems like in the Bible the one person who gets the maddest about it, is Jesus himself. Whenever Jesus encounters the blowhards, the killjoys, the fakers, the judgmental, he lets them have it with both barrels. I like that. Jesus was just as offended as you have been. So, maybe we can hold on to Jesus and tell the rests where to get off.