Baptist Faith and Message

The Baptist Faith and Message says some good things about the nature of a local church. It would be helpful if pastors and churches would take time to consider seriously the claims of this statement. Other Baptist confessions have more complete statements, but what the 2000 BFM says is good as far as it goes:

VI. The Church
A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Notice the emphasis on life and activity. Churches are comprised of baptized believers who “associate,” “observe,” are “governed,” “exercise,” and “seek to extend the gospel.” Church members are to have spiritual life. At least, that is what we formally confess. Our practice, however, tells a different story.

Despite what the confession says, the majority of Southern Baptist church members are not “associating together” in church, being “governed” by the laws of Christ, “exercising” spiritual gifts, or “seeking to extend the gospel.” What we say we believe and what we actually believe and practice are two different things.

It might prove useful if the articles of the BFM–or at least selected articles–were expounded in a devotional and applicable way during the Bible study times of the annual Southern Baptist Convention. Pastors could be given models of how to teach the confession to their churches and encouraged to use the confession to promote spiritual health through reworking the church’s approach to how members are accepted and maintained in the body of the church.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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