You will see from comments to my last posting how controversial defining "true Baptists" may be! But I must hasten on from these sketches, and ask whether certain characteristics emerge that speak of preaching in the Baptist tradition? Recognizing that many of these are distinctive of other Protestant groups, perhaps their combination reveals something that is distinctly Baptist? Let me list seven, beginning with these three:
1) Scripture is authoritative. Baptist preaching has a high view of Scripture’s authority. Throughout its history, including “seeker sensitive” preaching, the Scripture text remains foundational for Baptists. Early Baptist emphases on learning and theology remain important in the many Baptist seminaries, with homiletical concern for solid exegesis and faithful application.
2) Preaching is dominant within worship services and leadership. The dominance of the Baptist pulpit has its roots in New Testament understanding of the church as gathered believers under the word. Often, the prime place given to preaching relegates the rest of the liturgy – singing, prayer, the Lord’s Supper and even baptism – to a less prominent place. A person’s preaching call and gift is also the main consideration when appointing a minister. “Preaching with a view” remains the normal approach to settling a Baptist pastorate –gifting in the pulpit is seen as essential.
3) Preaching is often evangelistic. Preaching for faith-response remains a powerful Baptist emphasis, though other forms of evangelism are also encouraged. Because the church comprises believers, their initial faith response is all-important for the local church’s very existence. For some Baptists this is a weekly emphasis.