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People of GOd

Whether you’re new to the community or have lived in Martinsville or Henry County for many years, you are welcome here. First Baptist Church is a community church, serving our city and county with love and hope. Come, join us as we journey together in faith. Your hopes, your dreams, your joys, your fears, and your doubts are all a welcome part of the journey.

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Our History

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Visit Us

Located at the corner of Mulberry and Starling Avenue, you’ll find a family of faith worshipping together each Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m. You’ll also find small groups to study the Bible and explore theology. You’ll find retirement-age ministries and missions ministries. You’ll find an award-winning Early Learning Center. You’ll find an excellent group of educators who love children and youth. Come and see what our church is doing – and join us!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you Southern Baptist?

Well, we are in the South, and we are Baptist. But no, we associate with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, not the Southern Baptist Convention. The main difference is that we ordain women to all forms of ministry, and we consider that part of God’s call and giftedness for women. That being said, historically the church was Southern Baptist and owes its heritage to that denomination.

So, what is a Cooperative Baptist?

Unlike the Catholic Church, there is no such thing as the Baptist Church. There are only Baptist churches. Each church is locally autonomous and governs itself (no bishops or diocese tell us what we do or don’t do). This “Free Church” tradition means every church organizes itself and may look very different from another Baptist church up the street. All the believers in a congregation work together democratically to make decisions and be on mission together to do God’s work in this world. And, as locally autonomous congregations, Baptist churches join together to work for larger mission projects. For that, we associate with the Henry County Baptist Association (local), Baptist General Association of Virginia & Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Virginia (state) and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (national). We fund mission efforts like missionaries, disaster relief, advocacy, and other good work. We also partner with other nonprofit organizations that fit our theology and mission, focusing on who’s doing good work already that we can support.

What exactly do Baptists believe?

Well, as many different kinds of Baptist churches there are, there are exponentially many more Baptist believers, and as believers, each one has the right to read and interpret Scripture for her- or himself. That being said, there are some historic core Baptist beliefs:

Soul Freedom. Each person is responsible for her or his own relationship with God. Only in freedom can a person give one’s heart and life to Christ. Through soul freedom we recognize the importance that God places on the free will given to humanity. Through soul freedom we recognize that no one else can answer for us—not the church, not a creed, not the denomination, not the clergy.

Religious Liberty for All. Because each person is responsible for his or her own relationship with God, it is essential that no person or human institution, particularly government, be a coercive influence either in support of or in opposition to the faith practices of people. Each individual must be afforded the right to define her or his own relationship with God (or non-relationship with God). This right should be guaranteed in both law and practice. Preventing the government from involvement in matters of faith protects society from the tyranny of the majority, individual liberty from coercion, and religion itself from corruption by powerful but sinful, finite individuals. For these reasons, church and state should be separate. Read more about religious liberty in this paper by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

Priesthood of All Believers. Through the saving work of Jesus Christ, each person has been given direct access to God. No woman or man needs an intermediary to commune with God, interpret Scripture or minister on her or his behalf. Pastors and full-time clergy are called by God to ministry as a vocation. Although they inhabit a leadership position by virtue of their vocation, their role does not place them in a theologically superior position to the laity.

Autonomy of the Local Church. Each Baptist church is intended to be a fellowship of like-minded believers, autonomous in its governance and affiliations. All affiliations with local associations, or state or national conventions are voluntary. In affiliating with an association or convention, a Baptist church does not relinquish any of its autonomy or independence regarding either theology or governance.

Sufficiency of Scripture with Christ as the Lens for Interpretation. The Bible is the supreme theological determinant of our beliefs. All creeds or statements of belief, including this one, are secondary to, and should be examined in light of, Scripture. The appropriate lens through which we understand Scripture is the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Scripture cannot be interpreted independently of either Jesus Christ or the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Believer’s Baptism by Immersion. While First Baptist receives into membership all Christians who have professed faith in Jesus Christ and have been baptized, by any method, as a sign of their faith, our normative practice for new believers is rooted in our Baptist heritage. In that tradition, baptism follows a voluntary profession of faith. Believer’s baptism is a symbol of the death and burial of the individual’s “old life” and the resurrection of the person to their “new life” bestowed through the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Consistent with the koiné Greek word on which the word “baptize” is based, baptism is performed by full immersion of the individual.

What does a worship service look like?

Our church follows the church liturgical year, meaning that we walk together through most of Scripture following the lectionary and celebrate with Christians of many different denominations the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. Worship here is what most would call “traditional” with hymns, an organ, and choir anthems. Chosen with utmost care to remember the Scripture and the season, these parts of worship bring us together to learn and to praise God together. But the message and the company is always contemporary – we believe that our faith not only looks back to the past in the Bible, but forward into our community and our world. Church and worship happen not only in our beautiful sanctuary, but in the ways we live our lives in this world.

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