It was a privilege to have Nigel Wright as speaker at Engage Tasmania, our Baptist State Conference, last weekend. Nigel is principal of Spurgeon’s College, London, and with his wife Judy, journeyed to Hobart for the conference. It was a delight to have lunch with them last Monday and show them both around our buildings at Hobart Baptist. Given the influence of Spurgeon, and his son Thomas, in the early life of Hobart Baptist Church it was a great reminder of the profound heritage we have.
Under the conference theme “Back to the Future”, Nigel suggested a “church without a past is a church without a future” and reminded us that historically, Baptists are the “radical Protestants.” Better described as a “movement of Christians” than a denomination, Baptists have often been at the pioneering edge in areas such as the abolition of the slave trade, issues of religious liberty and the ministry of women.
Nigel called us to revive the radical stance of our forebears and return to a New Testament vision of the church which is at the core of our Baptist Heritage: believers’ church, believers’ baptism, disavowing Constantinian influences and the separation of the powers of state and church. While acknowledging the positive and negative influences of tradition, he called for the ongoing transformation of our congregations to meet the challenges of our day.
All this reminded me of the great heritage we have here at Hobart Baptist Church. It was encouraging to remember that while the church faces significant challenges, those who have gone before us have travelled similar roads. They too faced challenges that at times seemed insurmountable, yet they persevered and God brought them through. Why can’t it be the same for us?
By recalling our radical roots we can be inspired. Taking time to look back at our history reminds us of where we have come from, and of the journey we are on with the Holy Spirit. Church can and should be an exciting place to be. It may be difficult at times, and increasingly difficult in the midst of an increasingly hostile environment, but the future need not be dark and glooming, but exciting.
God still loves his church, Jesus is still building his church, and the Holy Spirit is at work. Let us be encouraged and continue to ask God to enable the church, no matter what denomination, to be all that God desires it to be.
Stephen L Baxter
If you have some time, why not check out this 15-minute video put together by the Baptist Church in the UK, explaining some of the profound heritage of the Baptist Church >>>