Chute, Anthony L., Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A. G. Haykin. The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2015. 356 pp. $49.99.
History repeats itself is our way of saying what Solomon said thousands of years ago, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9). A simple thought made complex because the people, places and events may change but there seem to be themes throughout history, like a boomerang, which continually return to us. This is evident in The Baptist Story. The authors do a masterful job highlighting “three key interrelated themes: promoting liberty of conscience, following Christ’s will in our individual lives and churches, and proclaiming the Gospel everywhere” (pg. 344).
The Baptist Story is divided by centuries; the first section is the Seventeenth and Eighteenth, section two the Nineteenth, and section three, the Twentieth and Twenty-First. In each section the authors describe for us what the world and culture was like for Baptist Christians and provide for us a window into how the Baptist movement started and progressed through the centuries. The Baptist Story also highlights how the secular and religious world and culture impacted or stifled the Baptist movement. The Baptist Story opens the door for us to see the internal struggles from within the movement in each century, from leadership squabbles, the civil war, Landmarkism, the battle for the Bible and much more. Our eyes are opened to the phenomenal growth Baptists have experienced throughout the centuries, while at the same time experiencing phenomenal growing pains. The Baptist Story ends with a final section on Baptist Identity and Distinctives which is an excellent and helpful section describing what makes a Baptist a Baptist.
Some final thoughts should be made, The Baptist Story isn’t an exhaustive resource on the Baptist movement globally. Although it shows how the Baptist movement spread globally, the authors “tried to focus on the grand narrative of Baptists, giving particular emphasis to Baptists in the English-speaking world” (pg. 325). The goal of The Baptist Story was to “produce a work primarily for students that recognizes the global sweep of Baptists, with all their historic and doctrinal variety” (pg. 3). I must say, they accomplished their goal. Finally, throughout the book you will find photos and quotes from original sources of each era. This addition to the book was extraordinary and, for me, provided an added value.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
As you read The Baptist Story, you can trace the themes: religious liberty, global missions, applying the will of Christ to our lives and churches. Another theme which could be added is fighting for Biblical faithfulness. Baptists are still in the forefront of those issues in our world and culture today in 2016. We are still fighting for religious liberty, personal and local church fidelity, global missions, and Biblical faithfulness. The Baptist Story will benefit your ministry by encouraging you and helping you see you are not alone. Others have gone before you, and some have died for their faithfulness. Those stories provide an encouragement and a motivation to fight the good fight and finish the race. You need to know of those stories; your congregation does too.
The Baptist Story will benefit your ministry by showing how Baptists arrived on the scene and grew into a global movement. Where did Baptists start? Why did they grow exponentially? How did they respond to challenges? All those questions will help you address issues in your ministry and in your church. We can learn from history what we should remain faithful to, what we should let go of, and how we can improve.
New resources are arriving as fast as ever, it is impossible to keep up with them. I try to assign myself books from theology, devotionals, biographies, and church history each year to stay afresh. My suggestion is for the pastor to add church history to a reading schedule and add The Baptist Story to your list, you will not regret it.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
The Baptist Story provides a brief yet broad overview of Baptist history.