First and foremost we are a Christian church that, like all true churches:
- believes the historic Christian truths that come from God’s Word, the Bible;
- seeks to be Christ’s church, by being devoted to Bible teaching, prayer and worship, caring for one another, and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ the only Saviour and Lord.
Then as part of our being led by the Lord, through following the Bible, we are an independent Baptist church.
An independent church is not in a denomination with its hierarchy, such as the Anglican Church or the Baptist Union. An independent church is living in dependence on the Lord of the church, Jesus Christ, who directly rules each church. Also individual churches are to link with and help other Bible-based and Jesus-centred churches – that is practice inter-dependence. This is the pattern of church life in the New Testament. For instance, in Revelation 1:9-19 we find the Lord Jesus is in the centre of and directly ruling separate churches and, the church in Antioch sent money to help the church in Jerusalem when there was a famine there (Acts 11:25-30).
Practically being an independent church means the people of our church give money to fund all the church’s staff and activities. Plus, with the guidance of the church leaders, the church makes its own decisions (for instance on who to appoint as leaders and other major decisions) – the church is not under an outside authority.
As an independent church we are not an isolated church but we are in the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC). This is an association of independent churches who seek to follow the Bible’s teaching and proclaim Jesus the way, the truth, and the life (that is they are “evangelical”). The FIEC gives advice, runs a Pastor’s Association and seeks to promote that the churches are healthy and growing. Locally, we are part of a Reading Passion for Life group of churches, who pray together and organise joint events.
As a Baptist church we practice believer’s baptism (by immersion). That is we follow the order of Acts 2:38 and 41: “Repent [turn to God] and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit …. Those who accepted [this] message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to [the church] that day”. Here the New Testament pattern is only believers are baptised – those who have turned from their disobedience, are trusting in Jesus the Saviour for forgiveness and new life, and are seeking to live for Him in the church and their daily life. Also the word Baptism means immersion, which is going under the water (being dunked under!), so we have a small pool under a platform that we use for baptisms.
Baptism is a sign that someone is committed to Jesus, and his church, plus it is a picture of what the Lord has done for them – washed them clean of their guilt, and raised them to a new life of being devoted to the Lord God and people. So baptism does not save, rather it is a sign that someone is already saved. It is like wearing a Reading football shirt because you are already a Reading supporter – just wearing the shirt would not make you a Reading supporter! Furthermore, all this means we do not baptise (or Christen) infants, for people must believe for themselves and understand what they are doing, to be baptised.
We cannot put this better than Jesus’ parting words to his church, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).