Baptist is a form of Christianity

John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies


Field report by Rahel Sieghartner

(Stay: April 8-12, 2006)



  1. Structural classification of the Calvary Baptist Church in umbrella organizations
  2. Community profile and structure
  3. Pastor Dr. Rick Sadler
  4. Faith Profile of the Calvary Baptist Church
  5. The church interior and building
  6. Sunday School
  7. The church service
  8. main emphasis mission and Ministries
  9. Mission Link International
  10. My personal experience


1. Structural classification of Calvary Baptist Church in umbrella organizations

In the Calvary Baptist Church it is an evangelical and conservative church. She arranges the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) too. 8% of the church budget goes to the SBC and 2% to so-called “local causes”, i.e. initiatives for those in need in the vicinity of the church. The relationship of the Calvary Baptist Church to SBC is a cooperative; the SBC has no control rights over the church and cannot appoint the pastors of the individual parishes. Churches that cooperate with the SBC are autonomous, non-profit organizations, they manage themselves and are the owners of their land and buildings.

With more than 15 million members and 42,000 churches, the SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. In the state of Virginia it is split into two camps. 1996 moved from the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV), which was the only SBC organization in Virginia that Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV) split off [1]. The BGAV was too moderate for the members of the SBCV. Dr. Sadler even described them as liberal. Just like the SBCV, the Calvary Baptist Church a strong missionary approach. So you can find on their website as a heading “To know Christ and to make Him known”.

The Southern Baptist Convention lobbies in Washington D.C. about the "Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission“, Whose spokesman is Richard Land.



2. Community profile and structure

The Calvary Baptist Church (CBC) was founded in 1966. It moved to its current location in 1980. It was created by splitting off from the Bemont Baptist Church. The name Calvary refers to the mountain on which Jesus was crucified. The average age of visitors to the CBC is estimated by Sadler to be 45, although the community is said to be getting younger and younger. In order to attract even more young people to the CBC, she is currently looking for a competent "Youth Minister ", indicating that the overhang of the elderly is recognized as a problem and is a problem.

In contrast to the past, the CBC is no longer a so-called “Community Church”, where parishioners are mainly recruited from the local area. The CBC has members within a 15-20 mile radius due to the lack of conservative communities in the area. Dr. Sadler emphasizes that the church goers come from one "Blue-collar" - , so come more of a working class background and have different races, which is not a matter of course for a conservative southern church. It is said that more and more black people are coming to the church. In church services, however, most people are white, which I estimate is at least 95%. Since Dr. Sadler is the pastor of the congregation, attendance at services increased from around 60-70 visitors to around 150-170 visitors per Sunday. Sadler attributes this, among other things, to the introduction of current church music and the diverse opportunities for members to get involved in church life.

The parishioners have relatively close relationships and, according to Dr. Sadler "accountable to one another". So there is mutual social control and the members know each other personally. There are so-called "Deacons "whose office is derived from the scriptures [Acts 16: 1-7] and [1 Timothy 3: 8]. Everyone Deacon is a parishioner himself and is responsible for a specific group of parishioners. This responsibility is expressed in visits, support talks and inquiries in the event of non-appearance in the church. Following the biblical example, they must Deacons be male and married.

To become a member of the CBC, one must have had a Christian “rebirth experience”, announce it publicly and be baptized by total immersion - if this has not happened before in life or the person concerned wants a second baptism. A rebirth experience in the sense of evangelical reborn Christianity describes an experience that shows the person Jesus as his Savior and leads to a radical lifestyle. An example of a rebirth experience would be a drug addict who comes to church through an event - e.g. a dream about Jesus or the drug death of a friend, which is understood as a warning from God - and then gets baptized. He begins a new life by renouncing drugs and trying to live an exemplary Christian life.

According to Paul, the CBC sees itself as a body in which different members are supposed to take on different functions. Dr. Sadler sees his church in competition with other churches. The highest growth rates in churches today are recorded by changing churches. In contrast to the mega-churches, which offer their members various activities including fitness centers, the CBC offers service to people. The members should not be served like in a mega-church, but the members should serve other people. For many young people this concept is less attractive.



3. Pastor Dr. Rick Sadler

Dr. Rick Sadler is the pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church and the president of the organizations Mission Link International and Feeding Link for Kids. He grew up Christian in Charlottesville and accepted Jesus as his Savior at the age of 11, i.e. he consciously accepted the Christian faith and was baptized. By the time he graduated from high school, Dr. Sadler lived an exemplary life and was a devoted Christian, then went to the Navy. During his time in the navy, he lost his Christian faith, but in his mid-twenties he felt that he had to help people. During this period he must have had his personal rebirth experience, in which he came home drunk after a night of drinking and saw light (God) and darkness (Satan) in his room. He chose God and renounced alcohol. So he started from a motivation that he himself calls "God’s calling" "Ministries" To work (ministerial offices) with old people - likely visits to old people similar to those that members of his ward do. He involved more and more volunteers and eventually withdrew from this activity. He attended the Columbia Universityin which he is as "Associate Pastor" worked and graduated as a theologian. At the South Eastern Theological Seminary he did his PhD and then worked as a pastor in various states and parishes. The organization started in 1998 Mission Link International in Lynchburg, where he was in contact with Liberty University would have. In 2000 he came to Calvary Baptist Churchwho, despite his demands, continued to make him president of Mission Link International and to be on a mission trip three months a year as a pastor wanted.

The Bible verse [Gallatians 2:20] is proclaimed by Dr. Sadler's motto for his life: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I no live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. "



4. Belief profile of the Calvary Baptist Church

The motto of the Calvary Baptist Church is "To Know Him and to Make Him Known". The missionary approach is therefore very central and extends from the proselytizing of people in the immediate vicinity of the parishioners to the engagement of parishioners in Uganda Mission Link International.

Since the Calvary Baptist Church to Southern Baptist Convention counts, is it true also the "Baptist Faith and Message 2000 "[2] too. The "Baptist Faith and Message 2000" speaks out against abortion, homosexuality and pornography (see Chapter XV: The Christian and the Social Order). The Calvary Baptist Church if homosexuals were to be welcomed as visitors to church services, but if homosexuals wanted to become members of the church, they would have to ban homosexuality from their lives. Homosexuality is called “lifestyle” by the community, i.e. a conscious decision that can also be revoked.

The image of women "Baptist Faith and Message 2000" provides that women submit to men and the man is the head of the family (cf. Chapter XVIII: The Family). Women are also not allowed to become pastors (see Chapter VI: The Church). In the Calvary Baptist Church women are not even allowed to Deacons and not Sunday school teachers when teaching men. Women have a subordinate role - which I also had to feel - and should ideally be housewives. Divorces are common to most of the members of the community Calvary Baptist Church an evil, as are heterosexual couples who live together unmarried, as this is forbidden according to the Bible. The community does not approve of a marriage between a Christian and someone of a different faith or even an atheist. Dr. Sadler, for example, refused to marry a Christian and an atheist while he was a pastor in another church.

In the "Baptist Faith and Message 2000" proselytizing is seen as central to Baptist Christianity (cf. Chapter XI: Evangelism and Missions). This corresponds to the motto of Calvary Baptist Churchwhich is very focused on proselytizing. The Bible is seen as the word of God (see Chapter I: The Scripture), which makes it the infallible truth.

A rebirth experience is according to the "Baptist Faith and Message 2000" central to experiencing redemption (see Chapter IV: Salvation). Interestingly, baptism is not a prerequisite for salvation, and although Baptists commonly stand for adult baptism, chap. VII: "Baptism and the Lord’s Supper" nothing about adult baptism. However, Baptists do not baptize children, and baptism is both a prerequisite for church membership and access to the sacrament.

It is very clear to this community that there are no gray areas. Dr. Sadler told me in an interview "either you are for the Lord or against Him". The community is characterized by a strong black and white thinking. There is either “the devil or the Lord”. Obeying the Bible is paramount. Whoever does not obey them is a sinner and whoever has not been born again, i.e. who has accepted Jesus as his Savior, ends up in hell. Dr. Sadler's vision for an ideal society would be a society in which everyone is a Christian in the sense of being born again. In his opinion, we are living in the end times. It is clear to him that this is what every generation thinks of itself - because God wants to create a feeling of urgency among Christians through it - but the establishment of the State of Israel is a strong sign of the dawn of the end times. Now only the temple in Jerusalem has to be rebuilt, whereby Sadler could imagine that the Al-Aska mosque on the Temple Mount could be destroyed by an atomic bomb from Iran or by an earthquake. This comment suggests that Dr. Sadler picks up the world's news of a possible Bible correspondence or fulfillment of end-time prophecies. For him, however, politics and Christianity should not be linked in the form of lobbying.

It is extremely important that every person receives Jesus as his Savior: "not the country needs to be changed, but the people". People would then vote in the Christian sense anyway. Dr. Sadler names a passage in the Bible that says that God would heal the land if the people believed [2 Chronicles 7:14].

Despite the clear thinking in terms of fixed rules, there are still controversial issues in the community. One of them is whether or not people are divorced Deacons because the Bible says that the Deacon must be married to a woman. At a higher level in the Southern Baptist Convention there is also controversy surrounding the prohibition of the pastoral office of women and the role of women in general. Another controversial point on the Southern Baptist Convention seems to be the infallibility of the Bible. However, these higher-level controversies do not affect the controversies in the conservative Calvary Baptist Church out.



5. The church interior and buildings

The church building was completed in the 1970s and the congregation moved in in 1980. The premises of the church include besides the "Sanctuary" Office space for Dr. Sadler, his secretary and an office for Mission Link International. There are also about 15 rooms for the "Sunday Schools ". Under the church, which stands on a hill, there is a meeting room with a church, some of the Sunday School rooms and a sports hall with basketball hoops. What is interesting about this sports hall - besides the fact that a church has a sports hall - is that it is lit through a large window in the shape of a cross. The sports hall serves, among other things, common dinners. Every Friday, Dr. Sadler there also basketball with the youngsters. Since there are no basketball hoops in the area, the church built this hall to attract young people from the area. Several times a year there is basketballCompetitions, in which several teams compete against each other. The half-time breaks are used to "know". This means publicly bearing witness to the work of God in the life of the individual. It is one of the central techniques in proselytizing.

The worship room itself is kept rather simple. There is a large wooden cross on the altar, which is raised by steps. On the occasion of Easter, the altar was decorated with white lilies. The baptismal font is behind the cross. It is more hidden and the visitors to the baptism ritual only see a small section of the baptism through a glass window. To the right of the pastor's desk on the altar is the Christian Flag and to the left of it the US flag. The church has normal glass windows, white walls and there are about 15 rows of pews on the blue carpet.



6. Sunday School

The Calvary Baptist Church has 15 "Sunday Schools ". The groups are mainly divided according to age. There is a crawling group, a group of children from 2-3 years, children from 4-5 years, first and second graders, third to fifth graders, sixth graders, the junior high group, the high school -Group, an all-male group, an all-female group ("Ladies' class "), one group for couples with children up to 12 years of age and several mixed adult groups. In the Sunday School it is about deepening the knowledge of the Bible and conveying Christian morality and worldview. From looking through the lists of participants I could see that many Sunday Schools had very few visitors. Sometimes there was only one visitor. The class with the highest attendance was one of the mixed adult groups with 25 visitors. A total of 109 people were there on Sunday, April 9th, 2006 Sunday School. There are also many people who do not attend the Sunday School and go to church straight away. The teachers of the Sunday Schools are mostly church members who do this work voluntarily.

I attended the "Ladies' Class"in which Candy Sadler, the wife of Dr. Sadler, Sunday School-Teacher is. In addition to the two of us, seven other women between the ages of 35 and 65 took part. The Sunday School initially began with so-called "Prayer Requests ": the women called Candy their personal prayer wishes. It was about topics such as health and work. Prayer should also be made for a Church family whose son is currently in prison. Candy made a note of the wishes and then led a joint prayer in which she worked through all of these prayer wishes. After the long prayer we started with the session, which was introduced by a brief recap of the previous session. Finally, we turned to Chapter 5 of the Sunday School- Exercise book "God’s Love" from the "Women of Faith Study Guide Series ". The title of the chapter is “Responding” and the participants in the session had already prepared cloze texts and questions about certain Bible passages at home.The core message of this session was: "If you love God, you obey Him.", "The more you have been forgiven, the more the love of God.", And that one should lead an exemplary Christian life, not the mainstream Should consume culture. Central scriptures for the session were [Titus 2: 7], [Titus 2: 1], [1 John 4:11], [Luke 7: 40-47] and [2 Corinthians 3: 17-18]. The session also raised the question of how to bring others closer to God. One of the means mentioned by Candy was, in addition to an exemplary lifestyle, to give testimony to his own experience of faith ("witnessing "). One of the women said she had a problem with that. After all, she has always led a Christian life and therefore has no rebirth experience with a drastic way of life to show. Candy told her to just tell what God is doing in her life. The session ended with a prayer of thanks



7. The worship service

In the Calvary Baptist Church I was allowed to attend the service on Palm Sunday, April 9th, 2006 and on Wednesday, April 12th, 2006. The Palm Sunday service was introduced by reading [Matthew 21], followed by a common prayer. During the prayers as well as the singing, the worshipers stand. After the prayer, organizational matters were discussed and the guests were welcomed. Guests have to raise their hands and receive a special welcome package, which includes information about the basic beliefs of the Calvary Baptist Church contains, as well as an address form to be filled out by the guest, which he should put in the collection basket. Then everyone in the church stood up and shook hands with those around them in greeting. During the service, many songs were made from the "Baptist Hymnal", a hymn book that can be found next to the Bible in the pews. Dr. Sadler preached about the infallibility of the Bible during the service. The Bible is exactly God's word and must also be followed. He cites [Nehemiah 8] as suitable passages in the Bible, in which Ezra reads from the scriptures in front of an awesome audience. Sadler is enthusiastic about the reactions to the Bible described therein and would like his congregation and everyone else to be more enthusiastic about the Bible. But one shouldn't believe theses like that that Jesus walked over ice instead of water. The just published Gospel of Jude does not belong to the Bible and is therefore insignificant for faith. Only the Bible counts and the devil tries to interpret and manipulate it according to his thinking, by only picking parts out of it or wanting to add new ones. In this sense, one should also stay away from Mormons because they are theirs "Book of Mormon" value more than the Bible. The Bible should be studied but not venerated and is at the center of the Christian faith. After the sermon, Sadler asks the congregation to ask "Sinner’s Prayer"to pray. People can come forward to be blessed. A new church member is brought to the front and Sadler briefly introduces him. The congregation sings a song with which they greet the newcomer, who weeps with emotion. He is older than 60 years. He suffered a heart attack about 6 weeks ago and has since found his way back to Jesus Christ and been baptized again. This case represents a typical rebirth experience. With such a rebirth, the person changes his whole life. For the people of the Calvary Baptist Church this is also part of such a rebirth experience "Sinner’s Prayer"in which one confesses one's sinful existence before God.

The visitors to the service were on average at least 50 years old, at least 95% of the visitors were white. When the pastor said something that people agreed to, they expressed it by saying "Yes" or "Hallejulia" in a low tone. The service was rather "stiff", there were no children running around, as there were hardly any. The service on Wednesday was significantly less attended than that on Sunday; it was the core of the congregation. The structure of the service was slightly different from that on Sunday. Initially, Dr. Sadler pointed out organizational matters, then there was common singing, whereby the song requests of those present were taken into account. Well was after "Prayer Requests" asked and the parishioners called out their prayer wishes to the pastor, who would later consider them in private prayers. Many wishes had to do with health issues. As a visitor, I then had to give a small Power Point presentation about myself, Berlin and the FU, whereby the parishioners were particularly interested in the other religious mentality in Germany. This was followed by a time of prayer, which was initiated by a short prayer from a parishioner. After he finished, everyone stood in their prayer position and waited. Soon the next member of the congregation answered spontaneously and prayed aloud. After she finished, the next one came. During this prayer round, which lasted about 20 minutes, a congregation member also prayed out loud that I should have a rebirth experience and accept Jesus so that I could do missionary work in Germany and change something about the religious mentality and the practice of worship. After the prayer round, the service was over.



8. Focus on mission and ministries

The Calvary Baptist Church has several "Ministries". Under "Ministries" services in the name of God to people are to be understood. They are an expression of the mission to spread Christianity to which Jesus called his disciples according to biblical sources [Matthew 28:19]. Dr. Sadler says very clearly that the missionaries or the Ministries there are no purely humanistic motivations behind it, but that it is only about evangelizing, i.e. every help is accompanied by the delivery of the Christian message. A Ministry is e.g. the so-called "Van Ministry". Children from underprivileged families are driven to and from church on Sundays, while the parents usually stay at home.

The organized basketball games in the church's own hall are also called Ministries considered, since it serves to spread the Christian message when people publicly testify to their experience of God in the mid-term. In addition to the basketball games, young people and children should alsoYouth Ministries " are won for God, e.g. the annual canoe trips that take place on a week in summer and in which 125 children from the neighborhood take part, including children who do not belong directly to the church.

Furthermore there are several Ministries in old people's homes. Immediately after the service there is one every month in the “Morningside” retirement home Ministry, where church members sing with the residents of the nursing home and a church member gives a lay sermon. At the end of the sermon, the lay preacher also leads the prayer. The lay preacher on Palm Sunday repeated very impetuously and confused the quintessence of the worship service just heard about the infallibility of the Bible with emphasis on the approaching end times or hell. At the end of the sermon he prayed "Sinner’s Prayer" and asked to repeat after him. There were about 10 old people present, one of whom slept during the Ministry a.

There is also one on Tuesdays once a month Ministry in another old people's home. Several members of the community sing well-known Christian songs with the elders there. About 30 old people were gathered in the common room and there was singing for about an hour. Many old people sang the songs from their heads, others clapped or moved their bodies with the music. Towards the end, the old people received a biscuit and a drink and Easter surprise bags were handed out, in which there was a drink package and sweets.



9. Mission Link International

Mission Link International does not belong to Calvary Baptist Church. When Dr. Sadler in 2000 as pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church was chosen, he had Mission Link International already founded, that was in 1998, and headed the organization. As a prerequisite for accepting the pastor's office, he named the condition Mission Link International and to be able to go on a missionary trip for three months a year. Therefore, behind the church, among other things, a warehouse for Mission Link International built. Office space for the organization is in the church.

Mission Link International could be described as a one-man company, because Dr. Sadler manages and administers the whole thing almost alone. Glassell Williamson, who works three days a week as the Church secretary, volunteers two days a week for Mission Link International. The "Board of Directors " consists largely of members of the First Baptist Church Charlottesville, in which Dr. Sadler's brother is active. Sadler receives financial support for projects from all over America. A check was recently received from a parish in Brazil. However, the parishioners are also committed to Mission Link International. Some of them come with us on mission trips to Uganda and take on important tasks. For example, Glassell has already been there and distributed glasses to people. However, any help always goes hand in hand with the Christian message of faith.

Before founding Mission Link International fell Dr. Sadler, who was in Lynchburg at the time, pointed out that many of the foreign students of the Liberty University wanted to do missionary work in their homeland, but had no money available. To remedy this, helps Mission Link International People in other countries building Baptist churches. So no Americans should be sent to other countries for missionary work, but instead Nepalese should do missionary work in Nepal, for example. Mission Link International gives missionary contacts to Nepal, Nigeria, Lesotho, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya on its website. Missionary work is to be carried out in particular in countries which have not yet experienced much missionary work or where missionary work is prohibited. No missionary organizations are supported, but individual missionaries. An important reason for switching to national missionaries, in addition to mastering the national language and knowledge of the culture, is that they are much cheaper than missionaries sent from the USA. Support takes the form of help in setting up churches and clinics, provision of training and material, disaster relief, as well as financial and prayer donations. However, any support is always tied to evangelizing tactics and has no humanistic basis. That corresponds to the mentality that the Calvary Baptist Church at their Ministries is based on. From time to time members of Dr. Sadler's congregation on a mission trip.

To Mission Link International also belongs Feeding Link For Kids, with Dr. Sadler is chairman. The aim of this organization is to provide poorly nourished children, especially in the third world, with food. Feeding Link For Kids works closely with the organization founded by Richard Proudfit Kids Against Hunger together. The latest campaign by Feeding Link For Kids is an attempt to organize 1,000,000 meals at 23 cents each for Africa. An African restaurant in Charlottesville helps.



10. My personal experience

When I got to Calvary Baptist Church everything was well organized and I was treated kindly. The pastor, however, took little or no time for me. I see the reason that I am a woman. During my stay there it became clear to me that women have a subordinate role in this church. They have nothing to say and they shouldn't say anything either. You shouldn't ask either. When I got to Dr. Sadler was able to persuade Sadler to do an interview on the last evening, he often interrupted it to do small talk with his friends from the church. Once he let me sit for a full quarter of an hour. I also noticed that he gave Professor Wenzel more information and attention in the few minutes he met him about picking me up in the parking lot than I did in the whole time - with the exception of the interview.

Besides the stigma of being a woman, I had another stigma: I was not a born again Christian. I presented myself to the congregation as a Baptist because I grew up in the Baptist congregation in Berlin Steglitz. But that was apparently not enough to be considered a full human being and not to go to hell. During the interview with Dr. Sadler asked me if I didn't want to go to heaven. Often times people from the church invited me to dinner, and I was always sent with women, not men. At every grace, without exception (!), There was prayer that I would be enlightened and accept Jesus, that is, that I would be born again. I felt it was a nuisance and I noticed a polite but deep distance that people maintained from me. I was not a person to them, but an object of mission. Nobody asked about my interests or who I am and what I do. The only subject on which people might still expect my opinion, or rather approval, was the Christian lifestyle. So I noticed, without being told that directly, that the church people found it impossible that at the age of 24 I wasn't married and lived with my boyfriend, because that was clearly unbiblical.

All in all, I felt very uncomfortable there, every openness was the openness that this church brings to a woman who has not been born again. I was happy when I got away from this church and no longer had to hear that I was going to hell and that they were looking forward to the email from me in which I wrote that I was finally on the right track of born again Christianity. Even though I presented myself as a Baptist, I should go to Hell. This church only accepts their way and anyone who does not follow it is lost anyway. My conclusion: total intolerance and deeply internalized black and white thinking.


[1] Christian Century. "SBC conflict splits Virginia Baptists - moderate and conservatives of the

Southern Baptist Convention, ”Nov 20, 1996. Online Resource

[2] Southern Baptist Convention. Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Online Resource