The Missionary Candidate and Baptism
The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention has been given the responsibility to appoint missionaries who have a Biblical view of baptism. The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message expresses the Southern Baptist Convention's beliefs regarding Christian baptism as portrayed in Scripture. The Bible teaches that water baptism is a symbolic picture of the believer's identification with Jesus Christ through His death, burial and resurrection from the dead. The Holy Spirit regenerates the heart of the sinner and brings him into the universal, eternal church of Jesus Christ. Water baptism is the regenerated believer's outward expression of his faith in Jesus Christ. For this reason, water baptism is a local church ordinance in that it is the local church's responsibility to examine a prospective member regarding his faith and his baptism to insure a regenerate membership. Southern Baptist Churches cooperate around the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message which states that water baptism is by immersion, after personal salvation, and is never to be trusted for one's salvation.
The missionary candidate's personal baptism will also be examined by the International Mission Board. Since the International Mission Board, by policy, does not consider a person for missionary appointment who has not been a member of a Southern Baptist Church for at least three years, the examination of the missionary candidate's faith and baptism by the International Mission Board is simply to insure that the local, autonomous church of which the candidate is a member has followed the Biblical model for believer's baptism in accepting the missionary candidate into membership.
If the candidate gives testimony that his baptism was by immersion after having come to faith in Jesus Christ, and that that his trust is in Christ alone for salvation, and that his local, autonomous Southern Baptist Church has received his baptism for membership into the local church, then the International Mission Board will consider the candidate's baptism to fall well within the parameters of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.
If, however, the International Mission Board discovers that the candidate was not baptized by immersion, or the candidate's baptism preceded his personal conversion, or that the candidate was trusting his baptism for salvation and not the work of Jesus Christ, then the missionary candidate has disqualified himself from service on the mission field, regardless of the acceptance of his baptism by the local, autonomous Southern Baptist Church of which he is a member.
The International Mission Board does not desire to infringe on the autonomy of the local Southern Baptist Church, but it is our desire to insure that all missionary candidates fall within the parameters 2000 Baptist Faith and Message regarding baptism. However, every Southern Baptist Convention agency, including the International Mission Board, must not narrow the parameters of cooperation by adding to the requirements of Biblical baptism as defined by the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.