Below The Surface—Baptists, Their Actions, And Deeper Meanings: How Baptists use the Bible, Baptist theology, and lived experience to build up our local churches and outsiders, as per Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 14.
Baptist Identity and Practice
Baptist identity and practice flow from the Bible and are then summarized by confessional statements and Baptist theology. Baptists also receive instruction from first-person experiences through our participation in the local church. However, when we depend solely on first-person experience, we lack the information needed to gain God’s perspective.
In other words, telling our story as Baptists involves several elements: The Bible, Baptist theology, and our own lived experience. Telling our story also involves contextualizing these elements for outsiders.
We should intend for first- time observers to understand better. We can do this by providing them with a fuller context, beyond their experience alone. This context includes Scripture and historical theology (which centers our practice in the context of church history). First-time experiences can communicate the Christian faith more clearly if we intentionally add information from the Bible and from doctrinal statements (like creeds and confessional documents, especially Baptist ones.)
The missional implications of this practice are plain: If we are unconcerned about first-time experiences as a part of our contextualization process, I’m afraid we are likely missing opportunities. We might not get a second chance to communicate our message clearly.
In addition to its usefulness for outreach, this kind of local church contextualization transcends reaching the lost. Our highest goal includes discipling church members and equipping church leaders by connecting our identity and practice to the Bible.
Theological Anthropology and Contextualization
This paper highlights a need for local church contextualization that intentionally makes source material from the Bible and Baptist theology foundational to the life of the local church (incorporated into the liturgy, during sermons, and emphasized in new member training) and as an intentional aid to promoting understanding among visitors and members alike. This paper interacts with several authors’ explorations of theological anthropology and its relationship to the local church, including John Frame’s perspectivalism, M. Scott Moreau’s definition of contextualization, and Robert Banks’ Going to Church in the First Century.