In the church where I serve I baptize people in the middle of the Sunday morning worship service.
I realize that’s nothing unusual for many churches, but you have to understand that in many medium and small baptist churches, baptism is something that doesn’t happen all that often and when it does, it’s usually tucked away at the end of the Sunday evening worship service. That’s not a sin and a given church can do it however they want since there’s no Scripture that says it must be done on Sunday morning. But we choose to do it differently.
Baptism is part of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) and as such, it’s central to what we do. The sign out front of the building says “Baptist” on it which implies that it’s part of the identity of our church. If these two statement are true (and they are), shouldn’t people who come here actually see a baptism once in a while? And shouldn’t we demonstrate its importance during our worship?
So a few years ago, I decided to baptize people on Sunday morning and we’re still doing it.
(To tell the truth, I’m surprised some people didn’t complain that we didn’t have a church vote to decide the subject. Some may have and I just don’t know about it. I’m sure some people still see it as a sign that I’m apostate because I don’t do it the way the first pastor did it. But, whatever.)
The church, and by that I mean everyone who is present, needs to see and participate in the baptisms.
- The ones who serve faithfully week in and week out need to see that God is blessing what they do and their work touches the lives of others.
- The ones who do nothing but show up and complain need to be reminded that God is working despite their bitterness.
- The ones who show up to look down their nose at others who haven’t been here as long as them or don’t use the same translation, or don’t dress the way they do, etc. need to see that God doesn’t necessarily work according to their arrogant, Pharisaical standards.
- The older people need to see it so they can see that there’s no need to be smug and arrogant about the church of the past because God works in every generation, not just those past.
- The younger people need to see it so they can see that there’s no need to be cynical and pessimistic about the church of the future because God works in every generation, not just those past.
Everyone can and should participate in the baptisms not only by watching and rejoicing, but by remembering these things in particular:
- Baptism is a sign of your death to self and the world and your life unto God (as in Rom. 6:4).
- Baptism is a sign of your future hope of resurrection (as in Rom. 6:5).
- Baptism is a sign that God is still present among his people and still working to call those outside so that they become insiders just as he did us (as in Eph. 2:12-13)
- Baptism is a reminder that our responsibility toward those God brings into his family is not over, it has only begun; we still have to teach them to “observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20) and that means not only learning those things ourselves, it means being willing to put ourselves out there for these that God has brought into our care. Which will require more than keeping a pew warm for an hour on Sunday morning.
In short, if we’re going to identify ourselves with the name “Baptist,” we should value it more by seeing ourselves in terms of what baptism means rather than simply patting ourselves on the back because of the way we do it.