Dave Kiehn, PhD
Church Matters: Rooted in Historic Baptist Ecclesiology
What does it mean to be Baptist? Do denominations even matter? Isn’t it enough to just love Jesus and tell others about him? Today, many people believe that the doctrinal distinctives of denominations stand in the way of advancing the gospel. To address the great gospel need around the globe, many would argue that we need a lowest common denominator faith: trust Jesus and don’t get bogged down on the details.
At ITM we believe that knowing who we are better enables us to partner with others in the gospel–even across denominational lines–in order to live out the Great Commission. Who are we at ITM? We are people who believe that church matters. We are people with a shared vision for the nature of the church that is drawn from the Bible and rooted in historic Baptist practices. That is to say, we believe in elder-led congregationalism, qualified leadership, and meaningful membership.
“ITM is rooted in a historic Baptist vision for the church. We believe in elder-led congregationalism, qualified leadership, and meaningful membership.”
We believe that each local church should be governed by the congregation (Matt 16,18; 1 Cor 5; 2 Cor 2; Gal 1). The Spirit-filled members of the church serve under the headship of Christ as the final earthly authority to affirm the who and the what of the gospel. Additionally, we believe each church should be led by a plurality of male elders (Acts 14:23; Phil 1:2; 1 Tim 3:17; Titus 1:5-9; Heb 13:17). God gives elders to the church to teach sound doctrine and refute those who contradict it, to pray for the church, to shepherd the flock in love, and to protect them from false teaching and self-deception.
There are two offices in the church: elders and deacons (1 Tim 3:1-13). Both offices must be filled with godly believers who have hearts to serve the congregations. Elders are to be above reproach, apt to teach, and examples to the flock. Deacons are to be wise, faithful servants who help promote and protect unity so that the Word of God may increase.
Historically in Baptist churches, individuals became members of the church by covenanting themselves with a particular body through baptism and/or testimony. They were expected to gather every Lord’s Day, to pray and serve one another, to seek the lost, and to encourage the faithful with an eye toward the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe it should still mean something profound to commit oneself to a particular congregation.
ITM desires to promote historic Baptist ecclesiology in order to help our students hold fast to what the Scripture teaches. We believe God wants churches led by qualified, male elders, served by unifying, promoting deacons, governed by regenerate, faithful believers. We pray we will be rooted with our Baptist forefathers as we stand together on our convictions of the sacred Scriptures.