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
Discipleship and disciple-making
The Most important commandment
MILC – Making Individuals Like Christ
Getting Right with God
Baptism Pamphlet – “Why Should I Get Wet?”
Chalk Boards in Heaven
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.