Why Baptists Do Not Practice Lent

Usually, as Lent begins each year, I find myself reflecting on my childhood attending school with classmates who observed Lent. I remember always wondering what it was and why they had Lent and we, as Baptists, didn’t. As I grew older, I had occasions to be in worship services of other denominations and always felt uncomfortable in the more formal churches. As I attended seminary, I came to understand that what makes these services more formal is due to something called liturgy. This simply means that these churches follow a more formal or scripted worship. In other words, they follow the same formal patterns as others of similar denomination and liturgy. As part of (or alongside) the liturgy, many churches also have things like a Book of Common Prayer and a church year calendar, where “seasons” are observed. One of these seasons is Lenten or the more common Lent.
Lent is, simply, the 40 days prior to Easter Sunday (not including Sundays). Lent season begins on Ash Wednesday (Feb 22nd this year) and ends on the Saturday before Easter. If you have ever seen people with black smeared on their foreheads in the shape of a cross, this was done in observance of Ash Wednesday. The intent of the ashes is to remind of mortality.
 So, to the question, “why do we not observe Lent as Baptists?” To answer, we need to consider tradition, theology, and practice to get a good answer. As far as tradition goes, Baptists are not liturgical in nature. We do not have rituals or patterns that define our worship or ordinances.  Often, worship services vary widely among faithful Southern Baptist churches. As such, we do not observe the liturgical calendar. We have a much less formal style of worship. Secondly, in terms of theology, the observance of Lent is not found Scripture. It is a time of repentance and preparation for the celebration of Easter but is not mandated by the Bible.
           Finally, we need to consider practice, or better put, should we observe Lent. In a word, no. This is not meant to be critical of our brothers and sisters who do. The biggest problem with Lent is that it limits and sets aside a specific season for things that we should always be doing (repentance and devotion). Lent observance usually requires that the observer “gives up” some sort of enjoyment (sometimes, even sinful enjoyment). If you are not aware, the festival of Mardi Gras is always the week leading up to Ash Wednesday, with Fat Tuesday being the conclusion. The festival is built around having one more blow-out before being “good” for 46 days. See the problem there?
To be sure, we should absolutely prepare our hearts and minds for worship, and we should recognize that Easter is a very holy day. But I’m not sure that 6 weeks of asceticism (self-denial) is the way that we do that. Instead, let’s spend the whole year observing the Lordship of Jesus Christ, pursuing holiness, and enjoying the good gifts of God in our lives!

For His Glory!
Pastor Mike

**This is by no means a thorough examination of the topic, so see me if you would like to discuss further.

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