|Langston Baptist Church, oldest continuous|
Baptist church in Laurens County, SC
The Baptists in Laurens County, SC, were a peculiar people, distinct in their ecclesiology and their method of adult believer's baptism by immersion. The Hurricane or Harrykin Baptists between Clinton and Martin’s Depot (today's Joanna) were very sensitive to their method of baptism by immersion. Warrior Creek Baptist Church continued to carry on strict and public church discipline, holding strongly to the Baptist doctrinal ideal of a regenerate church membership as a core aspect of congregational government. Regenerate church membership means that
one cannot be part of the local church who does not exhibit the fruit of regeneration (or salvation) in their daily lives. More simply, one must be saved to be a member of the church, an idea that would seem intuitive, but was a radical concept when Baptists developed it back in 1600s Europe.
In keeping with that doctrine of regenerate church membership, the number of church members was far below actual church attendance by inquirers and regular attendees. Voting members had taken responsibility for a moderately disciplined lifestyle of holiness. Many others wanted to attend church with their families and friends but were not ready to assume that level of calling of a member. For all their strict adherence to the doctrine of eternal security, Baptist church membership could be lost fairly easily through behavior unbecoming of a regenerate, or saved, person. Inquirers and attenders were not held to such a standard. They could attend services freely, but they had no voice or vote, and consequently they also were not considered part of the redeemed. Therefore, the membership numbers recorded during this period are far below the actual number of those actually attending Baptist churches.
For example, Warrior Creek’s membership met once a month on a Saturday at 12:30pm to hear a sermon and then have court for offenders. After following the pattern of Matthew 18:15-20, if the offending member testified that he or she had asked forgiveness and said God had forgiven them, then the member could remain on the church’s membership roll. If not, they were dismissed. "Drinking, dancing, playing cards, stealing, fornication, being with child in unbecoming manner, or absent from service (especially males)" was considered grounds for dismissal. Two or three church members were appointed to oversee the dismissed person to encourage and ensure the wayward one stayed on the straight and narrow. "This practice lasted until early 1900."