A once Southern Baptist now Presbyterian minister friend of mine has told me over and over, “Mike, your problem is that you are what a Baptist minister used to be.”
I’ve given some thought to what he might mean; what follows is a summary of the kind of Baptist minister I am that has emerged from my reflections.
I am a Baptist minister who believes in salvation by the grace of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
I am a Baptist minister whose leadership style assumes that Christ is the head of the church, that I as the shepherd of the flock have the privilege and responsibility of walking before the flock to try to show them the way, and that I am not the boss or ruler of the church.
I am a Baptist minister who visits the members of my flock when they are in the hospital, when they are in a nursing home, when they have a death in their family, or when they have some other crisis in their lives, because I think that a pastor sits and walks and cries and prays and laughs with the people in their real daily lives and in the midst of the events that matter most.
I am a Baptist minister who assumes that everybody struggles with sin, including me.
I am a Baptist minister who believes that the Bible tells us absolutely everything we need to know about the one thing that finally matters, namely, the Kingdom of God and how to live in it and that God will use the teachings of Holy Scripture to form us in the image of Christ if we will submit ourselves to God’s guidance.
I am a Baptist minister who believes in soul competency and the priesthood of all believers and I thus take very seriously the twin truths that everyone is responsible before God for how he or she relates to God and that everyone who seeks God’s truth is just as liable to find it or to understand it as I am or any other “official religious person” is.
I am a Baptist minister who leads the people in worship with the assumption that God is the audience, the members of the congregation are the actors, and the members of the worship staff are the directors.
I am a Baptist minister who believes in the wisdom of the dictum “in essentials, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, love.”
I am a Baptist minister who believes that Baptists can and should appreciate and embrace a broad diversity in the “doubtful things” as we work together in our common calling to do missions and to practice evangelism.
I am a Baptist minister who approaches the preparation and delivery of sermons as the most important, the most influential, and the most dangerous thing that I do and so I approach the task with trust in God, with awareness of my limitations, and with great humility.
I am a Baptist minister who believes that I am called to love God and to love people, whether they are in the church or out of the church, whether they like me or don’t like me, and whether they want me to love them or whether they don’t.
I am a Baptist minister who believes that, when all is said and done, the only thing that really matters is how I follow Jesus.
If being that kind of Baptist minister makes me a dinosaur, then I’ll just have to be a dinosaur.