Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:19 WEB)
Baptism is a subject which can divide churches from one another. Every church has something to say on interpreting the meaning, method and application of Baptism. I don’t like to debate issues such as Baptism. I don’t like to debate many religious issues because religion cannot bring salvation. Religion is a set of rules, created by man, to define the confines of their faith in human terms easier to understand. My concern is whether someone has turned to God through the saving grace of the cross and entered into the heavenly family for eternity.
As parents this was a heart concern. We desired each of our children to understand our faith, God’s grace and the salvation offered from the cross. To see our children cleansed by the blood of Christ and know we will be with them for eternity was a major concern.
For years we dedicated our lives to serving God and brought this message of salvation to a lost world. It was just as important to see the lost world within our own home and insure they too heard the Gospel message.
I fear, and sometimes this fear is confirmed, we spend so much time concentrating on reaching the world that our global vision doesn’t include our own home. I’m reminded of Paul writing to Timothy when he says, “But if anyone doesn’t provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8 WEB) We read testimonies of pastors and Christian workers discovering, after many years of fruitful service, they’ve neglected their own families. I wish I could saw I was always properly balanced between family and ministry, but I can’t.
Sometimes I got so involved in a project that home became a place to eat, sleep and have my laundry done. The longer I spent in ministry, the older I got, the more I recognized the need to give as much attention to the spiritual growth and relationship of my family as I gave to reaching others with the Gospel. At times I was successful. Other times, I was not.
After twenty plus years of overseas ministry I was thrilled to know all my children came to the Lord’s throne of grace. Each of our children gave their lives to the Lord. Each of our children were baptized.
On Guam baptisms were held in the ocean. We said we had the largest baptistery in the world. Several times a year, since it was always warm, our church held baptism services after the Sunday services.
We’d gather together outside the church and form a caravan of trucks, cars and vans to drive to hotel row and find parking near Tumon Bay. With a portable sound system each candidate would share their testimony with the church and any interested beach combers. When the testimonies were complete, the pastor, and those to be baptized, entered the water and the ceremony commenced.
Wind surfers, snorkelers, sun bathers, and other tourists watched and wondered. We were ready with tracts to hand out and willing to talk with anyone interested in the Gospel being brought to life in the baptism. More than once a curious bystander saw the baptism then came to church and the Lord lead them to salvation. The circle was completed as they returned to the same beach to be baptized as a witness to another bystander.
In Vienna baptisms were a bit different. Since our church rented space at the YMCA we didn’t have a baptistery. During the summer, since it was cold in winter, a baptism would be scheduled on a beach at the Alte Donau (Old Danube). This was a big event.
Food was prepared, brought to the beach and a large table covered with numerous delicacies from the variety of countries represented in our church. We gathered, ate, sang and the candidates shared their testimonies. When others at the beach noticed the food table they were invited to join in the celebration. This was a chance to minister to people who might never step foot in our church services.
Singing and testimonies complete, we gathered at the river, no pun intended, and each person was baptized. Between baptisms we sang a rousing chorus of celebration. People gathered from all along the beach to see what was happening and ask questions.
One year, a man who had witnessed the baptism the previous year, came and spoke with our Elders. In the intervening year he too gave his life to Christ and desired baptism. After an interview on the beach he joined others from our church to celebrate his new life in Christ.
In the ocean, in a river, in a baptistery, a pool or a bath tub, yes we have seen that as well, each of these people were willing to proclaim, to the world, their faith in Christ. I grew up watching people baptized in the safe confines of the church. This is definitely an encouragement to the body of believers.
On the mission field I was introduced to public baptism. This was an encouragement and witness to the dying. Watching our children be baptized was an encouragement to us as parents.
Instead of arguing over the methods maybe it’s time we concentrated on the witness of baptism to the world around us. With a little attention to this detail we might lead others to God’s throne and need more baptisms. I’m just wondering . . .