The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Baptist denomination in the United States with nearly 16 million members. Southern Baptist beliefs are based on the importance of local church authority, the authority and inerrancy of the Bible and the importance of individual conversion. For Southern Baptists, the entire purpose of the church is to help as many unbelievers become saved as possible.
Christianity has long taught the concept of conversion. Christians believe that every person is born into sin and deserving of hell. Christianity promotes the idea that a person can be forgiven of their sins and justified before God, no longer facing the eternal consequences of sin. Different Christian traditions differ on exactly how salvation occurs, whether it's in a moment or a lifetime process. They also differ on the individual's role in conversion, with some teaching that salvation involves a combination of God's grace, faith and service to God while others teach salvation involves accepting God's grace through faith alone.
Southern Baptists believe that a person is converted in an instant. They use a variety of terms for this instantaneous experience, including "being saved," "being born again" or "accepting Christ." For Southern Baptists, conversion happens when a person realizes he's sinned, confesses that he's a sinner, repents of sin and asks Jesus to forgive him and come into his heart. At this moment of conversion, God saves the person from eternity in hell. All of his past, present and future sins are forgiven. Southern Baptists teach that the next step after conversion is water baptism, although this isn't necessary to salvation.
Most Baptists, including Southern Baptists, believe that being saved is something that happens once in a person's life and that it lasts forever. They teach that once a person accepts Jesus as her savior, that person will never again be at risk of going to hell. They believe that even a Christian who "backslides" or turns against God is still forgiven for those sins. Most Southern Baptists believe that the way Christians live their life will determine their rewards in heaven, and that their lifestyle can never put them in danger of hell. Critics of eternal security suggest that this encourages Christians to live a life of perpetual sin and that the person would still go to heaven even committing murder or genocide. In those extreme cases, Southern Baptists would argue that the person was never really saved to begin with, and never really trusted Christ as savior.
Not only do Southern Baptists believe that anyone can be saved, they have a genuine desire that others will be saved, too. Accordingly, Southern Baptists believe in trying to reach out to as many unbelievers as possible. This is known as evangelism. Evangelism for Southern Baptists can include preaching a message about the gospel, but it can also include one believer sharing the gospel with friends, family and even strangers. Southern Baptists believe it is the duty of every Christian to spread the message of salvation.
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