Although some people feel that it would be ideal if all Christians held exactly the same beliefs and followed the same practices, that is not the way it is—and never has been. From the beginning of the Christian movement, various opinions have existed about different matters such as the nature of the church, the way of salvation and the meaning of baptism.
If someone were to ask you, “What is the one thing that makes the Southern Baptist denomination different from other Christian denominations?” what would you say? Is it baptism by immersion of persons who have believed in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Is it a strong commitment to the concept of the priesthood of the believer? Is it an enduring belief in religious freedom?
Each of these is certainly held by Southern Baptists. But Christians of other denominations also hold them, although in some cases with a bit of a different interpretation.
The fact is that there is no single belief or practice that makes Baptists distinctive from other Christians. So what makes a Southern Baptist a Southern Baptist?
A combination of beliefs and practices sets Southern Baptists apart from other Christian groups. There is a distinctive group of doctrines and polities for Southern Baptists, a sort of Southern Baptist recipe. Like most recipes, each of the ingredients is not unique to Southern Baptists, but the total mix is distinctively Southern Baptist. Although some of those ingredients are part of the recipe for other Christian groups, no other Christian group has the same combination of beliefs and practices as Southern Baptists do.
The Southern Baptist denomination has made and continues to make a difference in the world. For example, we are free to worship in our country due in large measure to the sacrificial and unselfish efforts of persons who were part of the Southern Baptist denomination. Southern Baptists have championed religious freedom for all to worship according to the dictate of conscience without interference of government or religious organizations. They have done this in spite of persecution. Southern Baptists continue to work for religious freedom for all persons throughout the world.