Wednesday, May 06, 2009

FAQ: baptism

I've had at least 25 people go out of their way to express how much they enjoyed last Sunday's worship together. One of the things I stuck out there is that our leadership desires to make baptism a more regular and consistent part of our life together. Not only will this encourage the church, but our hope is that this will encourage those who still have not obeyed the Lord in this. Our staff is talking about how do to this and about some other possible worship service adjustments. Stay tuned!

This week our Growth Groups are grappling with baptism and the Lord's Supper and Pastor Ken had one of the leaders email him a set of baptism related questions. I was encouraged by the questions which gave me a peek into how folks are engaging and responding to our worship together. I also was encouraged Ken's responses, which represent well our staff's thinking on these matters, and so have asked and received permission to post the Q & A here. . .

Could baptisms be given in multiple venues? (beach, family camp, etc)

Yes, in fact we have at times had baptisms at the beach, and family camp actually sounds quite cool!! One of the keys seems not to be so much where, but with who in the sense that baptisms in the Bible took place in the context of the body and body life together. Part of the blessing of baptism is not only in the one being baptized but in the body being blessed, encouraged and challenged as you are not only identifying yourself with Christ, you are identifying yourself with His body, the church. (I Cor. 12:13)

Could a person's testimony be optional? Just recite a bible verse?

Yes, it could be. Often in Jesus’ time they would have many come to Christ as Jesus shared and then they would go right down to the river and be the thousands.

Are classes really necessary before baptism?

While we feel baptism is a basic step of faith, not one of necessarily reaching spiritual greatness or maturity, in our context of the church today, we feel it very important that before someone is baptized that they have a clear understanding of the gospel and how baptism fits in their walk of faith. We want to do our best to shepherd the flock here at Grace that we might turn our folks to the saving power of Jesus Christ and the gospel message. As we share the good news we want them to clearly understand that for there to be good news, there must also be bad news. So, we take the opportunity to share the reality of repentance in the true believer’s heart. We want people to understand clearly that the Bible talks of believer’s baptism, it is not something you to do BE saved, but because you are saved

Are some shying away from baptism feeling the preparation/ceremony itself is overly elaborate?

Unfortunately I would say yes. In fact, this may be one of the biggest reasons people shy away from being baptized at Grace. We are certainly talking about this on staff and don’t want this to be the case. And yet we see the great value of Christ’s body opening up with one another and being vulnerable to receive the blessing together that God gives when one is baptized. We don’t want to be “elaborate” in our time together, we desire baptism to be a time of worship and praise of God’s power to save and wash us clean from our sins.

As hard as it is to get “in front” of the body, I do know God has used this in many a shy persons life to grow in their boldness and confidence in Christ. I don’t know if you know my story, but as a youth I was very quiet and shy (yes, hard to believe I know, but very, very true) but decided to be baptized as a youth. And yes I remember it being very scary, and yet still today, it is something that God brings to my mind’s eye often at times of doubt or discouragement, encouraging me to put my eyes off of myself and my circumstances and back onto Christ, the one who saved me from death to life, which baptism is such a sweet picture of.

With this said, as I mentioned we are talking about how we might make it easier for one to share...maybe with a video or ???. And this too is another reason why the class is important as we help those desiring to be baptized in how they can more clearly communicate their faith, so that in baptism they are not only declaring their faith with the picture of baptism, but with their words. We spend time in the class helping you think through how you would verbalize your “story” in a short and clear way. The two key questions we help them articulate are two realities of true faith. The answers to the two questions we ask at baptism “How did you come to put your faith in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation?” and “How has God been at work in your life lately?” are sweet word pictures of the saving power, love and faithfulness of God and then of the reality of that those He saves, He changes from the inside out, for His own glory.

Pastor Steve and I discussed these and lots of other related issues in last's week Growth Group Leader Audio. Perhaps this too, might be of some help, as we think and process these things together. We're committed to lowering barriers to baptism and are actively looking for ways to do that. I think even opening up the topic a bit and facilitating some discussion can help us address our fears and hang-ups.

The bottom line: baptism is not optional, but a command and part of our obedience to the Lord.

Love your thoughts, if you've got any . . . .

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