Text: Matthew 5:1-14
The answer is, “somewhere between 74 and 78 in the United States.” The question is, “How many different kinds of Baptist are there in the U.S.?” Here’s a sampling. And by the way, each of these titles represents an association, conference, fellowship, or denomination. Meaning, that under each title there is more than one of these Baptist churches in the United States. Okay, here goes, in no particular order. Central Baptist, Evangelical Free Baptist Church, New Testament Association of Independent Baptist Churches, Alliance of Baptists, Old Regular Baptist, General Association of Baptists, General Association of Regular Baptist, General Six-Principle Baptists, American Baptist Churches, Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America, Landmark Baptists, Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship, Colored Primitive Baptist, Baptist Peace Fellowship, National Baptist Evangelical Life and Soul Saving Assembly of the USA, Baptist Fundamental Ministries for Jewish Evangelism, Baptist General Conference, Primitive Baptist, Reformed Baptist, Separate Baptist, Roger Williams Fellowship; and my two favorites: Unregistered Baptists, and Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists.
Now one can’t end with Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists without some explanation. Here’s what I found on Wikipedia about this group. Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists are part of a larger sub-group of Baptists that is commonly referred to as “anti-mission” Baptists. This sub-group includes the Duck River and Kindred Baptists, Old Regular Baptists, some Regular Baptists and some United Baptists. Only a minuscule minority of Primitive Baptists adhere to the Two-Seed doctrine. The primary centers of Two-Seedism were in Northern Alabama, Arkansas, Eastern Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, and Texas. The Two-Seed theological stance is known in some circles as “hyper-Calvinism,”—only evangelize to those who can be discerned as being members of the elect. This group is a very conservative lot and as one observer noted, “Innovations have never touched these people.” As of 2002, five churches or congregations of this faith and order still existed in Alabama, Indiana, Tennessee, and Texas.
I start with this introduction to emphasize Paul Harrison’s statement that “…those who strive to establish the singularity of the [Baptist] tradition are on a weak foundation.” So, it cannot be my purpose today, as I attempt to talk about our Baptist identity, to say with any specific definition what makes a Baptist a Baptist. What makes a Baptist a Baptist is as varied and diverse as, well, being Baptist. Neither is it my intent to give you a lesson in Baptist history. My purpose with this sermon today is to talk about the power and the potential of being Baptist. In doing so, I want to focus on two questions:
- How important is the name Baptist?
- Why do we remain distinctively Baptist in our identity?