We are followers of Jesus Christ. While many resist labels, they are helpful in understanding what defines a person or group. Jesus is the center of every Christian’s individual faith and Jesus is the center of this church’s corporate life. We believe Jesus is the Son of God. We believe Jesus is God in the flesh and that “in Him the fullness of deity dwells” (Colossians 2:9). The primary label for those of us at First Baptist is “Jesus Follower”. That’s how we want to be known. We want our lives to resemble the life of Christ in attitude, action, thought, and word. This is our highest calling and our greatest desire.
We are a community of believers. Community is a buzzword today. Many businesses seek to sell more than just a product in their stores. They desire to create an atmosphere where you and I can "experience community”. In fact, the Starbucks website says, “Caring for and getting to know each other, our customers and our communities is the basis of the Starbucks partner experience.” So if it is important enough to be duplicated in business, it must be an intrinsic need of humanity. Interestingly enough, the Christian faith was never intended to be lived alone, it was always intended to be lived in community. (See the book of Acts)
When we say “First Baptist is a community of faith” we mean that we genuinely love each other. But this is no mere friendly affection. It is an unconditional love, the kind of love Jesus would want in His family. We don’t always live up to this, but our aim is to love one another without strings attached. And not only do we love one another, but we ask God’s help in portraying that same unconditional love to everyone, especially those outside our fellowship. We believe Jesus died for them too and everyone has a place at the table in Jesus’ family.
We celebrate the Southern Baptist faith. Being Baptist is not our primary goal, but it is a large part of who we are. It does not mean we belong to this denomination or that convention, although it does mean we voluntarily cooperate with other Baptist groups for the sake of evangelism and missions. For this church, being Baptist amounts to four primary Baptist beliefs. Other protestant churches share these beliefs. It’s just that for 400 years Baptists have championed these causes:
We love God’s Word and believe that every believer has the freedom and responsibility to read and interpret it for themselves under the Lordship of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
We celebrate and defend the autonomy of the local church. This body of believers is independent. We look to Jesus alone as the Head of the Church. We own our own buildings, call/hire our own staff, pay our own bills, etc. While we affiliate with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and cooperate with several other groups, these associations are voluntary and they reflect relationships with like-minded people who share our values and missions goals.
We believe every person is created in the image of God and that everyone is both free and responsible to decide for himself or herself regarding their relationship with God. Each believer is a priest and all of us can approach God based on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who died that we all might have access to God. (2 Peter 2:9) We believe that our sinful nature creates a habitual choice of evil, which we, if left to our own choices, would not break. The good news is that God chose to actively pursue us to provide a solution for our problem. Yet, two choices, however, are needed for one’s salvation: God’s choice of man, and man’s choice of God. God has made the first move, and will continually do so; yet in the integrity of freedom given to us, he allows man the free choice of a response.
We believe in a free church in a free state. As Americans, we hold dear the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which secures religious liberty for people of all faiths or no faith. Baptists come from a history where we have been all too familiar with the hardships of being identified with the religious minority. Religious liberty means to us that the government should remain neutral in religious matters. The state should not engage in any action that will support religion (no establishment) nor take any steps to hinder worshipers as they follow the dictates of their conscience (free exercise). In return, we neither serve nor endorse a particular political party or government as “God’s Party”. Instead, we challenge our congregation to develop a biblically based worldview in which they may participate freely in the democratic process afforded to them. We encourage a biblical worldview of government authority and ultimate trust on God who establishes them. Our ultimate hope and loyalty is to the Kingdom of God, not of man. And finally, we take seriously Paul’s insistence to Timothy that he pray for government and all in authority, believing it is a command relevant to us today.