What is your denomination?
Sometimes people do not distinguish between a “denomination” and a “religious organization.” “Denomination” describes a set of beliefs and practices held in common by a group of persons. Denominations usually develop various organizations to help fulfill the values and beliefs of the denomination, but the organizations are not the denomination, they are just an expression of it. For example, the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptist World Alliance are not separate denominations; they are organizations within the Baptist denomination.
Although some people feel that it would be ideal if all Christians held exactly the same beliefs and followed the same practices, that is not the way it is—and never has been. From the beginning of the Christian movement, various opinions have existed about different matters such as the nature of the church, the way of salvation and the meaning of baptism.
Denominations are a fact. They exist and they are not vanishing. In fact, some, such as the Baptist denomination, are growing throughout the world. And denominations are important. They make a big difference in the lives of persons and in the world. The denomination a person is part of certainly has an impact on that person’s life. So it is important to know what denominations believe and practice.
What Makes Baptists Distinctive?
If someone were to ask you, “What is the one thing that makes the Baptist denomination different from other Christian denominations?” what would you say? Is it baptism by immersion of persons who have believed in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Is it a strong commitment to the concept of the priesthood of the believer? Is it an enduring belief in religious freedom?
Each of these is certainly held by Baptist Christians. But Christians of other denominations also hold them, although in some cases with a bit of a different interpretation.
The fact is that there is no single belief or practice that makes Baptists distinctive from other Christians. So what makes a Baptist a Baptist?
A combination of beliefs and practices sets Baptists apart from other Christian groups. There is a distinctive group of doctrines and policies for Baptists, a sort of Baptist recipe. Like most recipes, each of the ingredients is not unique to Baptists, but the total mix is distinctively Baptist. Although some of those ingredients are part of the recipe for other Christian groups, no other Christian group has the same combination of beliefs and practices as Baptists do.
Baptists come in a variety of “flavors.” They hold different interpretations and views on certain issues, such as the Second Coming of Christ, worship styles and denominational organization. But all Baptists have the same basic ingredients. There are certain ingredients that must be included, or the recipe does not produce a Baptist. Leave the cornmeal out of cornbread and substitute white flour, and you do not get cornbread. Similarly, leave out a key ingredient of the Baptist recipe, and you do not get a Baptist.