The Church in Lille
Though the Baptist movement began and grew in the North of France in the middle of the 19th century, it reached Lille only in 1952 and a church was set up there. In 1975 several couples started a community life in Lille. Their aim was to share the Good News of the Gospel.
Beetween 1975 and 1985, this work prospered and from it sprang up 5 places of community life where the poorest were welcomed and cared for. During that period, the Church ‘The Reconciliation’ the starting point for an association with a social calling named The Baptist Association for Helping one another and for the Youth (ABEJ), which todays employs more than 70 workers and welcomes 3000 people living in difficulty.
The Church also developped a chaplaincy, amidst this association, for the poorest.
The congregation meets every Sunday as well as during the week, through various groups according to the districts where people live, through prayer meetings, youth groups…
The Baptist movement
The Baptists originate from several streams coming from the Reformation, and the first church was set up in Holland in 1609. Here are their characteristics :
- Baptism through immersion of the believers
- Separation of Church and State
- Freedom of conscience
- The local church is independant as far as church life is concerned
Baptism is given to people who ask for it, after they have made a step of faith, and declared their will to commit to a life of discipleship with Jesus Christ inside the Church. The name « baptists », which was at first insulting, was given to those Churches because they practised baptism through immersion.
As they were being persecuted on the continent, the Baptists went into exile anywhere they could especially to North America. In 1639, Roger Williams started the first Baptist Church there as minister, and established Rhode Island, the constitution of which was the first to incorporate freedom of conscience and religion.
In France, the first Baptist Church started in 1820 at Nomain, in the North. The Baptist service had no legal existence at first, but though it faced hostility, the movement spread to the industrial basin of Nord/Pas-de-Calais, above the Belgian border, toward the East, the South, and set up in Switzerland.
Being evangelical, Baptist Churches value the Word (The Bible) as the utmost authority. They consider that one is not a Christian from birth but becomes so through an act of faith and a personal commitment.
Each congregation benefits from a large autonomy in fellowship with the others.
The churches live in fellowship with each other, united by the same confession of faith and by rules which are the laws of community life.
The Baptists today
There are 42 millions baptized believers inside the Baptist movement in the world. The most important branch is found in the U.S., Baptists being the largest denomination in the country.
In France, Baptist Churches number 12000 members, that is to say 40000 people (including the ones who are not members of the Church).
In the Nord/Pas-de-Calais, there are 15 Baptist Churches which are linked up with the French Protestant Federation, and 3 other Baptist Churches.
Beyond… In France the principles of the Reformation are shared by many Churches bringing together over one million members. In the world this group counts one billion people, and Christianity in the world gathers around 2 billion people.
The Church ‘The Reconciliation’ sticks to the statements of faith of the first Councils of Christianity (325, 381) and to the great protestant principles of the Reformation (1517) :
- God alone is worthy of honour and worship.
- The Bible alone, Old and New Testaments, has authority in matters of faith.
- Salvation cannot be obtained through our merits, it is a gift of God.
- Faith alone allows one to receive salvation, which is given by God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The Church ‘The Reconciliation’ is a member of the Federation of the Baptist Evangelical Churches of France and of the Protestant Federation of France which gathers a great part of the French Protestants, and also of the National Council of the Evangelicals of France which brings together most of the Protestant Evangelical Churches and works of France.