“Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.” (Hebrews 13:15)
Our whole life is an act of service to God.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom 12:1)
That is why we do not want to perform any ritual procedures. Instead we want God’s acting to become visible in everything we do.
Salvation is given to us through Jesus; therefore we do not acknowledge any signs (sacraments) which mediate salvation to us.
Jesus instituted baptism (Mt 28:19). It is the sign of conversion (Acts 2:38), of the death of the old self and the beginning of a new life in Christ (Rom 6:3-11). The magical misinterpretation of the baptism, in which the form itself without the content is believed to mediate salvation, makes it necessary for us to emphasise that it is not baptism itself that mediates salvation, but faith alone, of which baptism is a sign.
Whenever the Bible mentions only the baptism of a person when speaking about his repentance, it is the content more than anything that is being expressed by the form.
There is only one baptism (Eph 4:5). We are not Anabaptists. If an unbelieving “priest” or “pastor” etc. pours water on a child of unbelieving parents in the presence of unbelieving “godfathers” or “godmothers” or other relatives while quoting Jesus’ words from Matt 28 then this is not baptism but an empty ritual.
Nevertheless we strictly reject baptising brothers or sisters who were already Christians when we met them. We do not question the fact that they were already Christians when they met us.
In the same way that Paul did not baptise Apollos (Acts 18:24-28) we do not baptise brothers who were already Christians when we got to know them.
Mr. Kluge notes correctly that we consider the baptism of babies to be possible in the case where the parents are believers and guarantee to bring up the child according to Christian standards.
We definitively exclude the baptism of children of Christian parents during their youth or when they are grown-ups. In a Christian family a child gets to know the way of Jesus from an early age and (in a positive case) makes a series of steps in the right direction. A child of Christians does not experience a great hour of repentance, but rather he has the chance to make many small, good decisions for God. A child of Christian parents is taken into the community of believers from the beginning and gets to know Christianity within the community.
The history of the various Baptist movements has revealed that baptising the children of Christian parents in their youth – an unknown practice in the first centuries – is no protection from secularisation. The only protection is a constant concern for the purity of the community, which includes the readiness to see, in a negative case, the disbelief of one’s own children and to accept that they do not want to live in the community.
The form baptism takes (full immersion or sprinkling with water) is of minor importance. The only essential thing is the decision of the one who is going to be baptised to follow Jesus.
The Lord’s Supper or Communion is the celebration of our salvation. Therefore we abide by the early Christian practice of restricting the participation in this celebration to those who have accepted salvation, which means every Christian. Mr. Kluge’s expression that only “fully committed members” are able to attend is nonsensical. Somebody is either a Christian or he is not.
We reject the catholic understanding of the Eucharist (sacrificial character and transubstantiation) as well as the symbolic understanding of the followers of Zwingli and numerous Free-Churches. Also the Calvinist’s understanding of a spiritual presence is insufficient, since Jesus is spiritually present all the time. We hold to the understanding of the bodily presence of Jesus in the bread and wine without any transformation of the essence of the bread.
In defiance of what Kluge recognises as a “disinterest of the Group in theological questions which have no bearing on lifestyle or the formation of a community” we quite often discuss the topic of the Lord’s Supper with more intensity than he would suppose. Apart from that, it misses the point to consider the Lord’s Supper as a mere “theological question”. It has a lot to do with our practical life.
“Nothing is yet known about the precise rituals…”. Nor do we want to have any rituals. The only fixed point during the celebration of communion is the remembrance of Jesus’ act of salvation by reading the words Jesus said at the institution of this celebration.
There is no such thing as the “ritual” of public confession. Confession can take various forms. It could be done in a talk between two people or in a greater circle. The confession of sins is a clear commandment of God (James 5:16). Through confessing our sins God also helps us to become really free from them.
“No one who conceals transgressions will prosper,
but one who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)
Already the “Didache” (end of 1st century) testifies about the practice of confessing sins in front of the community:
“In the assembly you should confess your transgressions, and be careful to never approach your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life.” (Didache 4:14)
The Catholic practice of “confessio oris” (confession to a priest) is a medieval invention.
We also do not have any persons who are authorised to forgive sins (like the priests in Catholicism). God grants forgiveness to everyone who regrets and confesses his sins without any special human mediator.
Our daily meetings are indeed the most essential part of our daily routine. But they are not our actual “worship services”. Our whole life is a service of worship to God. Our behaviour at work or at school must be pleasing to God in the same way as when we are together with our brothers and sisters.
Our meetings serve the edification of the body of Christ. For this reason every part of the body must have the possibility to participate actively.
We want to praise God in everything we do, also with our singing. By doing this we do not want to satisfy the artistic expectations of our critics but to glorify our creator and saviour. That is why we do not have a choir who through artistic, often high quality performances seeks its own fulfilment.
We pray to God both in common prayer and personal private prayer. It is our wish to live in continual fellowship with God and in constant prayer. Prayer cannot be limited to certain prayer times. God is always with us and in prayer we can lay our whole life before Him. The personal relationship with God finds its expression in personal prayer. The slanderous claim, that we disapprove of private prayer as separation from the community, is untrue no matter how many times Kluge repeats it. (In the latest version of Kluge’s article he has revised his statement, saying that personal prayer is permitted when someone is alone or at work or at school.)
Common prayer and personal prayer are not in contradiction but compliment each other.
Jesus did not come in order to introduce a new and “better” prayer formula. We therefore consider the words of “The Lord’s Prayer” to be a way of helping us to focus on the right priorities so that we can pray according to the will of Jesus. God’s kingdom and God’s will should be our ultimate focus. Jesus did not want us to repeat his words precisely. He wanted to show us the right objective of our prayers, the essence of what we should pray for.
Concerning religious holidays we have already explained our view above (“Their perception of the community” -Daily meetings).