1 Timothy 4:8

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

New International Version




The purpose of this article is to locate Baptists in the wider body of Christians in terms of theology and ecclesiology (the study about the church). It answers the broad question: who are we in the Christian religion?

By theology we mean a body of beliefs that is also the framework and the parameters of what we believe about God. There are many Christians who believe different things. There are different classifications of Christian groupings.


Christians are divided among three major groups: Roman Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox.

Catholics form one Christian grouping with a traditional worship and a hierarchical system of church government with priests, bishops, cardinals and at the very top headed by the Pope who is regarded as Christ’s representative on earth and the successor of St. Peter. The headquarters of the church is at the Vatican in the city of Rome. The church has around 891 million members.

Protestants trace their history from the protest of a Roman Catholic priest, Martin Luther who broke away from the Catholic Church in what is called the Reformation in church history in the 16th Century. One major doctrine that Luther discovered was salvation by grace alone and not by religious rites or works. The Lutheran Church, Anglican Church, Presbyterian Church and Free churches (including, Baptists, Methodists), Pentecostal churches and Charismatic Churches are part of this main branch.

The Orthodox Church is older, is less well known in this part of the world but it also forms a major grouping especially in the Mediterranean like Greece with the Greek Orthodox Church; Parts of Africa like Egypt with the Coptic Church, Ethiopia and Eritrea; and Russia with the Russian Orthodox Church just to mention a few. There are about 150 million Orthodox Christians in the world. The Eastern Orthodox has a rich liturgical life with icon based spirituality. There is a Greek Orthodox Church in Blantyre near Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, opposite City Motors on Masauko Chipembere Highway.


There are basically three theological groups among the Protestants: Evangelicals, Pentecostal and Charismatics.

Baptists are Evangelicals. Evangelicals believe that the Bible alone forms the basis for doctrine and practice. Others accept tradition and experience in addition to scripture as basis for teaching and practice. Pentecostal and Charismatics are also Evangelicals. There are some differences however. To their credit Evangelicals have been strong on fighting for justice, freedom and poverty in addition to the strong emphasis of evangelisation of the world through the preaching of the gospel. The late Dr Billy Graham, most probably the greatest evangelist of the 20th Century, is was a Baptist.

Pentecostals differ from Baptists as Evangelicals in that they believe in the second work of grace following conversion namely the baptism of the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues. Pentecostalism began in the Azusa Street revival in the United States of America. The Assemblies of God, United Pentecostal Church are examples.

Charismatic may be churches but reflect more as a movement because they are present in some mainline churches including Catholics. Charismatic, just like Pentecostals, are loosely classified by some as Evangelicals especially in South America. Charismatic are closely associated and sometimes confused with Pentecostals. They believe also in the baptism of the Holy Spirit but whose manifestation is not limited to speaking in tongues. Shaking; a feeling of warmth in the body; falling under the power of God or what is known as being slain in the spirit; the Toronto Blessing or what has been referred to as holy laughter have been associated with baptism of the Holy Spirit or being filled with the Holy Spirit in the Charismatic movement. The Word Alive Ministries International and Living Waters Church are examples.

To the credit of the Pentecostal and Charismatic’s has been a freshness and renewal that has come on the church because of the expectation of the supernatural and the operation of spiritual gifts and trusting God for His manifested presence through the move of the Holy Spirit. The age of the enlightenment had an effect on the interpretation of scripture negatively because of secularism which highlighted science with cause and effect and at the same time ridiculed anything outside the natural realm and interpreted faith in God as superstition and that miracles simply do not exist. Both the Pentecostal and especially the charismatic movement have brought freshness and a liveliness of a worship experience through music though this is not confined to them. Unfortunately both Pentecostal and charismatic movements have created erroneously but inadvertently, a kind of two level Christianity. There are those who feel that without the baptism of the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues as understood by Pentecostalism are inferior or incomplete, and therefore second rate Christians as they still lack something.


There are several Baptist Conventions/Unions (mother bodies) in Malawi. Blantyre Baptist Church is under the umbrella body of Baptist Convention of Malawi which was pioneered by Southern Baptist Convention of the USA. There is the Providence Industrial Mission (P.I.M.), who are Baptists. Their work was pioneered by the National Baptist Convention of the USA. We have Evangelical Baptists. We have the Seventh Day Baptists. We have Indigenous Baptist. We have Good Samaritan Baptist and we have also Reformed Baptist. This is not an exhaustive list.



To obey the Greatest Commandment and to fulfil the Great Commission.
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