How we praise the Lord that he has preserved, protected, and provided for us so faithfully during this COVID-19 emergency! God has graciously enabled us to go on preaching the gospel of Jesus even when we were not able to gather and has even increased our ability to broadcast our worship services through Facebook and other means. The members of this church, too, empowered and directed by the Word and Spirit of God, have been astonishingly faithful and generous to give and grow during this challenging time.

Now that in-person worship services have begun for Dundalk’s First Baptist Church, it’s time for us to think seriously about what it is that God has in mind for us. The truth is, some things will probably never go back to the way they were before this emergency happened. I plan to use the next several months of articles for the Beacon to lay out for us the priorities that God has for us in months and years to come. Some will be new, but we start with reminding ourselves of something foundational.

When we took the Lord’s Supper together in our first Sunday gathering in June, one thing we were careful to do was recite our church covenant together. From our very earliest times, followers of Jesus who do battle under the banner emblazoned with the word “Baptist” have believed that the nature of the relationship that members of any local church have is covenantal. In fact, in our earliest days we did not even use the word “Baptist” to describe ourselves. We just said we were New Testament Christians gathered into New Testament churches. The word “Baptist” was pinned on us as a slur because of how and whom we baptized. At first, we resisted the label, but eventually we just embraced it.

But what was dearest to our heart were always the two ideas that are at the core of who we are and why we do what we do. First, we believe the Bible alone speaks Jesus’ word authoritatively to the world about what mankind should believe and do. Second, we believe that people can only become part of a local church by agreeing with the rest of the church to believe and live by a common rule. Only God can reach and touch the heart, so only your free choice can show that it’s God at work in your heart. Parents can’t do it for babies, and governments can’t do it to citizens. So we have been producing written confessions and covenants to describe what we believe the Bible tells us about how to believe and live, and asking individual people to consciously, deliberately choose to agree with those documents, since long before we were even called “Baptists.” A “church member” is simply someone who has agreed to that confession and that covenant, and the “church roll” is nothing more nor less than the list of the people who are committed to live in agreement with that covenant and in support of that confession.  

Do you know what our confession of faith says, and do you know what you have committed yourself to in our covenant? If you need a refresher, you can find those documents right HERE. I’ll have much more to share about them in days to come.

God has brought us to precisely this moment because he has a new day in store for us!