Black Sheep Baptist?
A fair warning.
I’m still understanding what a black sheep Baptist is myself, so this explanation and page will probably change from time to time.
*This is MY definition and understanding of being an outsider in the faith community I'm in while also representing that same faith to those outside of the "Baptist fold." I'm aware that my definition is not in any way exhaustive. The term black sheep has been used over the centuries to be both a label of praise and one of disenfranchisement and I want to be respectful to those who have a different definition of this term. While I hope to offer a positive perception of what a black sheep is in my specific context, I sympathize with those for whom this word is beyond redemption.
I think for a portion of our population, and when I say “population” I mean the all encompassing human kind, find themselves in the role of the outsider from time to time. People who feel they don’t fit in, are different, counter-cultural, or square pegs trying to fit through round holes. Introverts trying to fit into extrovert praising societies. Those that refuse to be pigeon holed by a label (and yes, I see the irony there). Proverbial black sheep tend to stick out because they often represent the minority. They say a lot just by saying something different.
I’ve always felt like a black sheep, and I’ve come to embrace it. That means raising an hand or an eyebrow in a church meeting when something doesn't sound quite right to me. That also means sharing my faith in "creative" ways when I find myself outside the walls of the institutional church building (I used the word "creative" instead of uncouth here, but uncouth tends to work better).
Since referring to myself as a black sheep Baptist I’ve had to try and unpack what’s behind that label. For me, a black sheep is someone who’s on the fringe of a particularly group. In my case, I’m talking about the good ole’ Baptist faith. Now let me be clear, I’m not a renegade type person in anyway. I work in the institutional church, which for all it’s faults, is a beautiful and wonderful thing. However Will D. Campbell, you’ll hear me mention Campbell A LOT if you stay connected with me, says you can work within an institution or a system but always be aware that you’re in it. What Brother Will I believe alludes to is the notion of the institution becoming a voice and motivating force instead of the individuals and communities that reside under those steeples (you see, Baptist are pretty big on the individual divine experience). So in a not so short answer, I work for the institutional church, but operate through an individual freedom of calling that my faith demands.
Sometime that puts me on the fringe of things. Not a bad place to be since it allows me to move and shift from one fringe to another. I often tell people, in my default setting I’m uneasy around church folks. I say that not to imply I’m a sketchy person or I’m trying to hide something, but to say I didn’t grow up around Sunday morning church attenders (my great aunt Emmie being the exception). I feel more at home with those who spent their lives nursing hangovers on Sunday mornings, always being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and speaking more like sailors than deacons.
This is where being a black sheep helps me because I get to be in both of these communities. I get to walk in the church with saints whose life stories are those of sanctification, and I get to spend time with those saints whose lives are still “under-construction.” I’m privilege to be able to have a foot in both worlds.
And sometimes, as much as we black sheep try to fight it, the rest of the flock invite us in. They bring us into the fold and remind us that although we might appear different we are still moving in the same direction. We are grazing in the same spaces. We are all sheep being looked after by the same Shepard.