The following post is by Lawrence Powers, a 2013 graduate of Campbell University Divinity School. Lawrence lives with his wife Heather in Greenville, North Carolina, where he serves in a joint position on staff at Oakmont Baptist Church as College ministry Intern and with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina as the Cooperative Student Fellowship Campus Minister.
By Lawrence Powers
During my time as a student in the Campbell University Divinity School I had the opportunity, in a church history class, to work on a project where I delved into the history of the Baptist tradition, particularly its beginnings in England and Amsterdam. Through this research, I gained a deeper appreciation for the deep theological and humble beginnings the tradition went through as its two main founders, John Smyth and Thomas Helwys, separated from the Church of England to answer a call they had received from God.
Helwys’ journey from wealthy origins to dying in Newgate Prison, all in the name of what he believed, was of special meaning to me as it shows that as a Baptist my beginnings did not start the night I walked into a Baptist church and accepted Christ, but rather with people who literally gave up their lives so that I can hold to Baptist beliefs such as autonomy of the local church, the freedom to connect with God directly without an intermediary, the freedom to interpret the Bible as the Holy Spirit leads, the desire to fight for religious freedom and even the deep understanding that we are a non-creedal tradition (not holding to or signing any type of creed as authoritative for Christian faith or practice).
I’ve also come to appreciate the Baptist tradition’s deep calling to serve others. From Adoniram Judson toWilliam Carey to Lottie Moon, the Baptist tradition is full of those who gave everything to share the message of Christ with others. These tenets of the Baptist tradition along with those of religious freedom, soul freedom and a deep reliance on the Bible are all important reasons why I will always be a Baptist at heart, no matter where God may call me.
I can’t say that I agree with every Baptist movement or denomination out there but I can appreciate the deep tradition we all have in common.
There is no way to express how thankful I am for the Baptist churches that have taken a chance on me over the years. From the churches that helped me grow from a new Christian to a congregational leader to those who have affirmed my call to ministry as I’ve worked with students over the past 8 years, there is no way to put into words my gratitude.
I will always find myself deeply indebted to every one of those Baptist congregations who welcomed me into their community and allowed me to discover what kind of Christian and minister God has called, and continues to call, me to be.
I am also grateful for my Baptist Divinity school and how it afforded me the opportunity to explore my theological beliefs and discover who I am as a follower of Christ and how my own personal theology fits into the way I live out my call to share the Gospel with the world. Of course, I can’t say that I have it all figured out or that my theology is not changing, but I can say, with certainty, that I am stronger theologically thanks to my time as a Divinity School student.
As a Baptist affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, I am truly thankful to be able to experience a tradition that celebrates a person’s call to ministry, man or woman, and ordains them to serve God in that calling.
This “Fellowship” is also one that is uniting churches, fighting hunger, making strides in religious freedom for all and transforming communities through the love of Christ around the world. I am truly thankful for its presence in my life and ministry.
The Baptist tradition is in my blood, it is a part of who I am. For the ways this tradition has helped me connect with the Gospel of Christ and for all of these other reasons, I am happily and deeply thankful to be a Baptist.
This post first appeared on Journeying Through.