One of the biggest things that defines Baptist churches is the fact that each individual Baptist church is autonomous;
that is, they are self-governing without having to answer to a large denominational body. Baptist churches are free to
organize themselves and to govern themselves as they see fit. The advantage this has for each church is that the
membership of each local church has the right to organize themselves and to function as they see fit. Whatever needs
the local people who make up the church see in their membership and in their community, they are free to meet those
needs as best as they can. Baptist churches are organizations that are chartered much like a corporation; they have
bylaws, elected and appointed leader, and a self-maintained membership. The larger Baptist denomination offers
guidelines, support, and maintain a list of 'cooperating' churches across the country. What makes a church Baptist is
its willingness to be defined by the theology that most Baptists agree to. This theology is detailed in a little
booklet called The Baptist Faith and Message.
Baptist churches have been among the fastest growing churches in the United States over the last one hundred years or so.
Baptist churches have found their appeal to Americans who most value the freedom and autonomy of local communities and
congregations over and against a larger denominational body that imposes its will across all its church in the country.
What can a person expect who joins one of these Baptist churches? One can expect to find a church that strives to be attuned
to the wants and needs of its individual community. If one community has a high number of people who don't fit the mold of
"middle-class urbanites" and yet the people believe the same things about God that Baptists elsewhere mostly believe, they
are free to worship and practice their faith as they see fit, and still have the right to call their church Baptist. They
may attend worship in jeans, sandals, and hats, if that is what they prefer.
God is not bound by culture. They practices of many cultures in the present day are very different from the cultures of the past.
God does not change. People and cultures change. Baptist churches do a good job of meeting the needs of people where they are,
without requiring them to look a certain way, or to act a certain way. God loves everyone the same and seeks to have a
relationship with each person through his Son Jesus Christ. The autonomy that Baptist churches have to organize themselves and
to worship and admit to church membership whom they will, this autonomy has allowed them to each be the kind of church of Jesus Christ
that they feel God would most have them be.