In 2012 we celebrated the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the first Baptist church in England by Thomas Helwys in the Spitalfields area of London. This gives us an opportunity to celebrate and to think about some of the things that make the Baptist way of being church and which we cherish. One of these is the independence and interdependence of each local church.
We believe in the freedom of the local church to discover the will of God for itself, so that it's worship, mission and life together is appropriate to the needs and circumstances of the local setting. Consequently, each local Baptist church, strives to listen to what God is saying to it about how it should fulfil the purposes that He has for it. We do this through our individual reading of the bible and prayer, through the work of committees, the praying, thinking and discussing by the Deacons and through the thinking, praying and decision making of the Church Member's Meeting.
Each local church is independent not only in deciding where God is leading it, but it is also independent in the way in which it is financed. The life and work of the church, from the heating bills to the cost of the minister is funded entirely by the giving made by the congregation and income such as room lettings. Consequently, whatever a church is led to do, it can only do so with the support of its members and congregation.
Although independent in this way, Baptist churches are also Interdependent on each other. We are all mostly members of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the local Baptist Association. Through these bodies we support and care for one another through Regional Ministers and the provision of resources and systems like the accreditation of ministers and financial support for special circumstances.
So how does this affect the individual worshipper? It means that each person's understanding and view is important in the process of discerning God's will. That is why Church Meetings and Congregational meetings are so important and need to be supported. It means that the growth and development of the church is dependent on the giving of time and money by each one of us. That is why regular committed giving is so vital. It means that if we are to follow Jesus instruction to go out to all the world with the Good News we need to support the development and health of churches across the country and beyond through our support of Home Mission.
Being part of a Baptist Church is a joy but it also brings with it responsibilities... which are shared by each one of us. Are you proud to be part of a church that is independent yet interdependent?