The name Baptist has its origin from the Greek and Latin words baptistes and baptista respectively. It means to immerse, cleaning, baptize, or dip in the water. The name was also used to refer to John the Baptist. Baptists elicit from two different streams of Anabaptists and Reformers. Anabaptist is a modification of the term Baptist that means rebaptizer. Landmark also referred to as Baptists bribers and General Baptists, claim to trace their foundation from the Anabaptists, where as the Particular Baptists claim to have descent from the Reformers. A true Baptist is someone who embraces, strictly follows, and views the New Testament Bible, as his or her primary authority for his or her faith and practice. Baptist as a name was used to designate and differentiate a true New Testament organizations or parades that were of sound biblical doctrines. They are seemingly the most diverse and widespread of all the worlds’ denominations.
Historical perspective of the origin of Baptist is founded upon four main views, and is as follows:
Spiritual kinship view
This view is founded on the continuity of biblical principles and teachings. Successionism is a theory that governing this view. It emphasizes on continuity and origin of the Baptist church. Successionism bore its concept from the trail of Jesus’ blood. The view outline that the succession of true and just faith can be traced, and can never ultimately disappear.
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Strict organic eternity view
History indicates that there has been a chain of succession of Baptist churches since the institution of the first one in the city of Jerusalem. Believers from the ancient times are said to have been Baptists but bearing different names. The Baptists historians, before the 20th century, wrote articles from the perspective that they had been in existence since the times of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Their eternity view conceded that their views and movement had been in constant historically separation from Catholicism. Furthermore, it existed earlier than the Protestant Reformation. The eternity view also has its identity in the trail of blood as in the spiritual kinship view.
English separatist view
This view suggests that the Baptist denominations had its origin in the 17th century, out of the Puritan Separatist Movement in England. The ever told view of Baptist origin is that Baptists historically modeled and established itself after the rise of the Protestant denominations. This view of Baptist origins has the enormous historical backing and support and is widely acknowledged and accepted. The position of this view is conceded as being the minimal influence of Anabaptists upon Baptists of the early times. During the protestants reformation, religious and political tribulations reigned. Churches and individuals were being forced to relinquish their theological and religious roots, but the Baptists held on to theirs to ensure its continuity.
Anabaptist kinship view
This view, points out that the continental Anabaptists, in the early 17th century, influenced the Baptists. This view acknowledges the origin of Baptist through the English separation but puts more emphasis on the Anabaptist’s influence. As per this view, there was some similarity sharing between the Dutch Mennonites (Anabaptists) and the General Baptists. Significant differences, however, did exist between the two, with the Anabaptists, tending towards extreme pacifism. Relations between Anabaptists and the Baptists had long been stained in the year 1624, forcing the five Baptist churches of London that existed then, to issue the condemnation to the Anabaptists. This resulted to the present minimal dialogue between Baptists organs and the Anabaptist organizations (Gerald).
The four views hold the fact that, the denomination and its practices dates back to the time of Jesus Christ, and trace a significant part of its origin to the seventeenth century. They further acknowledge the influence of Anabaptist tradition, eternity view and the belief that the church existed in unbroken chains, were major contributing factors to the Church’s origin.
Establishment in Different Countries
The first ever known Baptist Congregational church was formed and established in 1608 in Amsterdam, Holland. This was due to the concerted efforts by a number of people who flew the separatists.’ The congregation was considerably made up of a large number of Britons, under the leadership of John Smyth together with Thomas Helwys. The two set up the group in accordance to the pattern of the New Testament patterns. They perceived reconstitution more important to than just the normal church reforms.
Baptists in United Kingdom
In 1612, a religious reformer known as Thomas Helwys, saw the establishment of a Baptist congregation in London, The congregation, however, consisted of members of Smyth’s church. A number of other Baptist churches gradually mushroomed, finally earning the name General Baptists. The adoption of Baptists believers by Calvinist separatists championed the institution of Particular Baptists.
Baptists in America
The early foundation of the Baptist church in North America is credited to both John Clarke and Roger Williams. In1639, they Roger established a Baptist church in Providence, Rhode Island, and Clarke too endeavored in starting one in Newport, Rhode Island. The two were also great religious reformers. Baptists historians and theologians, who have an extensive research on the matter, suggests that much debate do exist as to whether the Newport deserved the of the first Baptist church in America. (Abrams)
The Great reforms and wakening strengthened and fired up the Baptist movement, and community. They experienced tremendous growth and development, and spread its branches, all over the globe. They became very large Christian community in many southern states, and among regions dominated by the black communities.
Associational groups that provided fellowship without rules, controls and restriction, were a good choice to, many Baptist congregations. The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Baptist association, amongst other of their associations. Some new upcoming churches resort to remain autonomous and independent of any associations, groups, denomination, or organization. Baptists World alliance was formed in 1905. Presently, it has over thirty-seven million members and counts of above 200 unions and conventions globally. Its main aim of the institution was to provide care for the less fortunate and needy, lead in world’s gospel evangelism and to define human privileges, freedom, and rights of religious. It also played a role in funding of projects.
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Baptists are born again Christians who have a strong belief in the bible, especially the New Testament. They believe that the trails of the blood of Jesus are a sign of continuity and Successionism.
The rampant spread and circulation of the church worldwide, has seen an expansion to its population. To date, 46million Baptists members, belong to congregations, incorporated in the Baptist World Alliance. Its membership worldwide stretches up to about 100 million believers, through 211 denominations. About 15% of Americans give their identity as Baptist. The church’s membership in Latin America, Asia, and Africa is also promising. 2.4million exist, in India, 2.5million in Nigeria, 1.9million in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and 1.7million in Brazil.
To become a member of the Baptists church, one has to make a public declaration of having faith in Jesus, after which baptism by water is performed. There is no age limits on membership. The church has stood out as one of the largest Protestant denomination in globally. (Cline)
Occurrences during the Origin
The church’s origin holds no good memories. At the time off its inception, the world was in great turmoil. Christians were being persecuted, due to the rebellion from Catholicism. The Anabaptists experienced viciously to the point of fleeing from their homes. Most people came to perceive Baptist not as an initiation into the Christian hood, as an introduction into Christian pain and suffering. The increase and spread of the Baptists idea to join up into a group in more towns and cities, lead to the backfiring of the persecution process. Thus, the religious reformists pushed harder, for the spread of the faith to attract new converts.
Philosophical, Political, Economic Perspectives
During that period, Rome was quite tolerant on various forms of religion, while it welded its authority among its people. They insisted on a balancing of power, in cases where the issues of royalty to the grand authorities were concerned. The unification and political worship of Caesar became a key imperial policy; this resulted in several accusations being brought against Christians. Christians were perceived as being unpatriotic and a source of potential conflict to the already uncertain political and economic system. Furthermore, employment was highly depended on idolatry. Therefore, Christians were persecuted not because they worshipped their savior Jesus, but since they refused to worship Jesus and worship Caesar. They were perceived as rebels who refused to make reference to the police. They laid their allegiance to their ultimate God (Knapp).
Background and Expansion of Baptist Church
In the sixteenth century, the Anglican Church was very slow to carry out important reforms that were required for progress. The slow rate of reforms annoyed many people who formed various groups to protest. These groups, referred to as separatists, left the main church to establish their own churches. One of this groups led by an earlier Anglican pastor, John Smith and Helwys Thomas settled in Gainsborough. At around this time, persecution of this Christians began; therefore, this group escaped to Amsterdam (Christian 30).
It was in Amsterdam where John Smith managed to convince their followers that baptism was to be a practice of true believers only. In 1611, the two leaders baptised all their followers, and they formed the first Baptist church. In 1639, Roger Williams organised the very first congregation of the Baptist followers in North America. In the eighteenth century, the Baptist church experienced a great awakening that led to a huge growth of the church in England. By the nineteenth century, the Baptist Church membership increased and did the pastors all over the continent.
The Philosophy and Principles of Baptist Church
The Baptist church comprises of individuals who believe in adult baptism practices and are in opposition to child baptism. The Baptist church followers use the Bible as a reference point for all their religious practices and faith. The followers, who are mainly protestant, believe that proper baptism practices should involve immersion in water. Today, the Baptist church has grown widely and the believers are slowly differing in their beliefs. This differences include their views on Christianity, their attitudes, what to believe in, and matters concerning discipleship. The Baptist Church leadership comprises of deacons and ministers who have a well-organised leadership structure (Richard 45). They offer leadership while encouraging members to contribute ideas for any decision-making process. Most of the members believe in evangelism while the rest express contemporary views of the Bible.
The Baptist church beliefs vary due to the encouragement of individuals to act independently. The Baptist Church persuades all their member churches to embrace religious freedom while separating church issues from those of the state. Every Baptist Church is also free to carry out all their church activities free from any form of interference from any outsiders. The church members are also encouraged to study the bible while freely interpreting the scriptures according to their comprehension using favourable biblical tools. The Baptist Church also believes that it should not force anyone to engage in religious practices that they are not willing to engage in (Richard 60).
Despite this freedom, the Baptist Church follows certain common beliefs like the existence of only one God, miracles, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the resurrection of Christ, salvation by believing in Jesus Christ, the second return of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and judgement for all our deeds. The Baptist Church follows specific principles that offer guidelines to all the church members. The Baptist church follows the scriptures to determine all their beliefs and practices. All their practices are in line with what is in the Bible. A good example is concerning their baptismal practices that oppose the baptism of infants. This is because there are no scriptures in the bible that states that infants were baptised. Although the Bible does not forbid the baptism of infants, the bible clearly states that only adults were baptised. The Baptist church is keen to follow the scriptures and hence their belief that it is not right to baptise infants (Christian 92).
Population Served Plus Signs and Symbols
Currently the membership is well over 100 million with more than 150 000 churches all over the world (Christian 58).The Baptist Church is very simple church, and it uses signs and symbols in very rare occasions. The Baptist Church carries out Baptism practices by immersing individuals into the water as Christ was baptised by John the Baptist. Christians commit to baptism to remember the suffering of Jesus Christ, his crucifixion, and his rising on the third day. Many see it as a sign of the washing away of sins that one may have committed. However, the Baptist church does not consider baptism to be actual salvation they insist that salvation entails the confession of sins and the belief in Jesus Christ as saviour. The Baptist Church also considers bread and wine that is non-alcoholic to symbolise the body and blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses our sins. The Baptist Church also uses a white dove that symbolises the Holy Spirit who is part of the holy trinity while the lily, which blooms during spring, symbolises purity.
The blooming of the lily from its bulb also symbolises the resurrection of Jesus Christ after the third day. In many occasions, the Baptist Churches decorate their buildings with a rose and a star. The rose symbolises the promise that the messiah left and the nature of Jesus Christ that is eternal. The bible also talks about the lamb showing the offering of a lamb as a sacrifice for the sake of the sins of man so that we may receive forgiveness. The Baptist Church uses the lamb to symbolise Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our transgressions. The Bible also tells a parable of the virgins who were attending a wedding; some made plans to carry extra oil for their lamps while others did not. Those who did not eventually had to leave the wedding against their own will. The Baptist church uses the lamps to symbolise wisdom, which we as Christians are all required to possess. The Baptist Church also uses a torch, which symbolises the passion that Jesus Christ had for this world and brings light to a very dark world (Richard 102).
Movers and Shakers
The Baptist Church has had very many radical movers and shakers; they all had a significant contribution to the advancement of the church. Martin Luther King is a good example of some of the past movers and shakers. Martin Luther King was born in Atlanta in January 1929. He was the second born child of Reverend Martin Luther King and grandson of Reverend Adam Williams. He attended school all the way to college at Atlanta University and finally graduated with a degree in sociology. He was a very exceptional student who continued to study theology in Boston University. Martin Luther King was interested in church affairs, and he received his ordination in 1948. He took up the position of assistant preacher at Ebenezer Baptist. After completion of his studies, he took a pastoral position at the Dexter Avenue church but later on resigned. However, he maintained his assistant pastor position at Ebenezer. Martin Luther King was a very vocal man who took up civil rights issues, and it was around this time that he wrote his famous speech. His involvement in civic rights issues made him acquire both friends and enemies. Being a pastor at the Baptist church combined with his growing popularity especially with his supporters caused the church membership numbers to soar (Shepley 104).
Another shaker and mover individual was Peter Durrett founded the oldest Baptist Church located in Kentucky. This church was the first Baptist Church started before 1800 that had a black congregation. The church comprised of black members who were all freed slaves. Peter Durret was among the pioneer black pastors who founded the black Baptist Church. With the release of more slaves, more Baptist churches began due to the inspiration they all got from Peter Durrett to start with the good work of the gospel. There was the establishment of many more Baptist Churches that comprised of a black congregation hence leading to the huge growth of the Baptist Church. After a while segregation ended and the black community could spread out with the gospel all over the world. These Black American churches gave way to the establishment of centers that offer educational facilities, orphanages, and, community service centers. This is a huge advantage since the community offers a comfortable and safe environment for spiritual and social development (Shepley 89).
Currently the shakers and movers in The Baptist Church have become very diverse, while causing huge impacts on believers. Technology has created a huge avenue for the Baptist Church to make an impact on the believers. The internet offers a means to reach out and minister to the masses as is requires by guiding principles of the Baptist Church. The internet offers Christians an opportunity to efficiently keep in touch and share the scripture even with nonbelievers. Other movers and shakers in our current day are ministers and deacons. Ministers and deacons offer guidance and inspiration to the crowds that they lead in church. They assist to revitalise the church members so that they can continue with the good work of Christianity. These leaders are also in charge of ensuring that the church members follow what is required of them according to the bible (Kenneth 50). They can do this by offering simple and clear interpretations of the scriptures for better understanding.
Their impact may not seem like a bang, but their accumulated efforts over the years have shown that with time and patience anything is possible. A good example of an inspirational pastor is Orlando Bottenbley who pastors the Bethel Free church. Organisations that dedicate their time and resources to spread the gospel and assist people who are in need are also movers and shakers of the Baptist Church. These organisations are mostly nongovernmental and are non-profit making organisations. These organisations assist individuals who require food, refuge, and clothing. This creates a positive impact in the lives of those who receive the assistance since their lives change in one way or another. Other than going to church, Christians also require to relax and let off some steam. There are organisations that cater for Christian activities other than church activities. These organisations are also movers and shakers since they have proven to believers that Christianity does not have to be boring. They offer fun activities like hiking and camping, retreat centers, they organise trips such as road trips (Shepley 120).
Current and Exciting Issues about the Church
The Baptist Church is an exciting place to be with simple and easy to understand sermons. A normal service in a Baptist church comprises hymns, prayer and the day’s sermon. The message for the day is usually the pastor’s choice, and the pastors try to relate their topics to current issues. The pastors ensure that the message is interesting and does not take up too much this is in order to ensure that he has the members attention. The Baptist Church does is open to any type of person with little or no restrictions. The church emphasises that every individual is equal before the eyes of God; therefore, no one should be discriminated. The Baptist Church usually welcomes all visitors and offers all members an opportunity to explore Christianity in a free and warm environment. However, the church faces certain issues that are constantly under close observation in order to offer effective solutions. The church is facing challenges touching on integrity; this has caused the unbelievers to mock the church institution. Church members have stayed in church for many years and the majority has let worldly pleasures to affect their Christian lives. This is leading to Christians having stagnated lives since they are neither hot nor cold. However, the leaders of the Baptist churches are all constantly together in prayer, so that Christians experience a revival and turn from their ways (Kenneth 78).