What We Say at a Baptism


Last week, I experienced a blast from my Cool Church past, and it wasn’t at all what I wanted it to be.  The occasion was a cheery one that I was SUPER excited about – the baptism of my youngest nephew, James.  James is in junior high and is positively adorable.  I remember the first time I met him way back in the day when my sister worked at Sonic and James was about 4 years old, and I was just about as terrified to meet him as he was to meet any adults.

This past Wednesday night, I had all the warmth and pride an aunt can muster, and there was the added excitement of getting to see a baptism after a couple of years of just… not seeing any.  I parked my car and walked up the familiar path past the teen building where I was introduced to God.  James had decided that my sister and brother-in-law would do the baptizing, but one of the pastors on staff would be there to help out.  We all gathered into one of the classrooms and set up some chairs so that the pastor could talk to James about what to expect.

This particular pastor isn’t one I’m familiar with, but he was enthusiastic and seemed to genuinely care, so I was excited to hear what he would say.  I haven’t heard anyone talk about baptism in such a long time.  So maybe my expectations were off.

Here are the notes I took on what was covered:

Acts 2: 36-42

Romans 6:1-6

Mark 12

2 Timothy

1 Corinthians

John

1 John

Genesis

Discipleship and disciple-making

The Most important commandment

Bad Theology

Satan/Enemy/Liar

Baptism

Holy Spirit

Crucifixion

Relationship

Justification

Legalism

MILC – Making Individuals Like Christ

Getting Right with God

Baptism Pamphlet – “Why Should I Get Wet?”

Chalk Boards in Heaven

Kool-Aid

Now… I’m pretty good at taking notes on stuff like this.  I’m a bit of a fidgetter, so I always take notes on sermons and spiritual things so that I don’t get distracted by something stupid like my finger nails or the bracelet I’m wearing or dog hairs on my clothes.  Had I known about my attention troubles back in school, I would probably have been a better student, but that’s neither here nor there.  Like I was saying, I’m decent at taking notes, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what the heck was going on with all of this… and that makes me angry.  Of course I disagree with the way TCC uses the verses in Acts 2.  I was prepared for that because it was one of the passages they ingrained in me that I used in my battles against unmerited grace.  But the thing that really gets to me is that at this special moment, there was more talk about peripheral issues than there was talk about Jesus.  Shouldn’t baptism be about Jesus?

My nephew is young.  I doubt he has any clue what theology even is, much less what “bad theology” the pastor was talking about, or the bible verse they’re going to teach him about hollow and deceptive philosophy.  Forget the fact that the pastor alluded to at least 8 sections of the bible when my nephew didn’t even have a bible in front of him.  Forget that he plugged two TCC pamphlets and 1 workbook/partner program.  Forget that he used two analogies that barely come close to describing God the Son’s work on the cross.  Forget that this pastor kept looking at me with that, “Oh my – she’s taking notes.  Is she a seeker?  Maybe we can baptize her too and add to our mega-church numbers,” look in his eyes.  I’m sure he was well-intentioned, and God works through all sorts of people and circumstances…

but I’m of the mindset that we should start James out by telling him how good God is for rescuing him.  I think we should both humble and encourage him by talking about Jesus.

It made me really angry.  The Cool Church did amazing things for me, and still does amazing things for people every day.  I’m just terrified that the gospel they present frequently focuses on the sinner rather than on the savior.  I’m terrified of my nephew knowing just enough about God to use Him as ammunition and self-glorification… but not enough to know HIM.  I want James to hurt for his sin and rejoice in grace. I want him to know the great I AM.  I pray for him to know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  I want him to feel unworthy to untie the sandals of the feet of a Savior.

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12 thoughts on “What We Say at a Baptism

  1. Pingback: Exploring the Covenant Act of Infant Baptism | Unsettled Christianity

  2. Pingback: Infant Baptism in the Church Fathers | Unsettled Christianity

  3. Hi Katie,
    I just stumbles upon your post here while looking for words for my husband to use when baptizing our 7 yr. old son later today. I agree with you so much! When my son expressed the desire to be baptized, I was initially excited, then that was quickly followed by worry…Does he understand? (even more) Will people think he is too young? So crazy! Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me.” I don’t want to hinder my son. He loves Jesus. He knows Jesus died for him because He loves him so much. He just wants to take the next step. Childlike faith. That is what God is looking for. He even goes so far as to tell us that we must all become like little children…I’ve been thinking this week about how God restores us. Maybe one of the things we “lose” along the way is that childlike, simple faith. We adults like to make things so complicated. We like to think we understand and are getting it right. We have to remember God’s thoughts are so high above ours. We are His children and can only walk in faith, hand in hand, with our loving Father. The children are very close to heaven, in my humble opinion. And, as you said, it is absolutely ALL ABOUT JESUS – who He is, how He loves us and what He has done for us! All praises and glory to Him!! May He bless and guide you as you walk with Him, and may He capture and fully live in the heart of your sweet nephew, James.

  4. Baptism is definitely one of those issues I struggle to talk about. I never know what ages should be baptized and how to answer when someone asks if they have to be baptized to be saved. It’s such a personal, significant, unique experience for everyone that I generally pick out a few verses and leave it at that.

    It’s really awesome that your son wants to be baptized, and I often think about my faith and how I’ve left behind that “first love” and “child-like faith.”

    • I know what you mean. Baptism is one of those sensitive and contraversial topics. I think maybe the reason there is no specific age is that it will be different for different people. Also, some people in the Bible were baptized right when they came to believe, some a while after. I think (just my personal, uneducated opinion) part of the reason for that is b/c each of our paths is unique in many ways. We’ve got to be led by the Lord in baptism as we do in everything else. I’ve been hearing this in my head all week: “Why are you worrying about getting it right? In Me, you can’t go wrong!” God has been (and still is!) really working on me to change my rebellious, self-reliant, know-it-all spirit to a humble, obedient one. He keeps bringing me the message that He is all the wisdom I need and knowing Him and obeying Him is all I need to do (Prov. 9:10). If we walk humbly with Him, IN THE END we will be wise (Micah 6:8b, Pr. 19:20). This is comforting to me. I don’t have to know or understand everything. I just have to know and continue to seek after one thing: Jesus! Maybe it is more about faith than understanding…anyway, rambling (which is basically what I do on my blog all the time :)).

  5. I know this is an older post- just reading it now. I would agree with your heartfelt desires for James to know Jesus, and would add that as he “feels unworthy to tie the sandals of our Savior” he would also be totally overwhelmed by the fact that he is now a friend of that very One. Wow. So how is James?

  6. I unfortunately don’t see James a lot, but I did bump into him and the family a couple of days and he seems to be doing well. :) He’s getting all growed-up and teenager-like. He’s got braces and whatnot.

  7. Wow! Absolutely fabulous writing. Love it when you said “I’m terrified of my nephew knowing just enough about God to use Him as ammunition and self-glorification… but not enough to know HIM”. So, so true in many churches unfortunately…and in the “Christian” commnunity in general. We get that a lot here in the “Bible Belt”. I had a friend that moved here from Wyoming and she was so excited at first that there were so many churches and Christian billboards everywhere…but then she realized that it is not always genuine and that there is not a drive to really know the Lord. Not many actually have the desire to “…know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;…” (Phil 3:10)

  8. Mmmm definitely a tricky thing. What is it about the Church and rituals? There always seems to be either an extremely by-the-book, no-room-for-the-Spirit approach, or a desire to do something so completely new and “fresh” that the true intent of the act is missed. Thankfully, though the Church is made up of us mistake-makin’ folks, God is fully in charge. James’s life will be continually blessed by God’s presence in his life, and God will continue to make James in His image regardless of whether or not the “right” words were said and the “right” topics discussed at his baptism. I am blessed to know this from experience, both as someone who was taught bad doctrine for a long time, and who gave talks about Jesus to high school students for years (many of which were less than perfect, but didn’t prevent God from doing His thing).

    Peace to you and your family! Hope you have a lovely weekend, Kathryn.

  9. Great post. I’m a pastor who is baptizing 16 people this Sunday and this was exactly what I needed to read to prepare me for my studies. Pray that I may help us hurt for our sins and rejoice in his grace. What a good word. Keep it up.

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