Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Sprinkle or Dunk? Celebrating students coming to faith.
Last Sunday night was an unbelievable experience for our people at Irving Bible Church. After our afternoon worship gathering around a thousand of us gathered to celebrate the salvation of 25 people. The atmosphere was truly electric as people crowded on stairs, balconies and bleachers to cheer on people proclaiming their faith through baptism. Of these 25 people 17 of them were middle school and high school students.
It was particularly significant to me because it's been 10 years since I baptized anyone. I'm ordained baptist, therefore the first 11 years of ministry I performed believers baptism by immersion. In fact there was a time I baptized a 350 pound man. I almost drowned. After that experience I was wishing we just simply sprinkled or poured, that would have been much safer.
In 2001 I went on staff at a Presbyterian church whose tradition was of course infant baptism.
My point isn't to argue believer's baptism verses infant baptism. But I do want to challenge us as youth leaders to think through celebrating God's grace when students come to faith.
Listen, I understand the Biblical evidence to support infant baptism as a sign of the covenant and fully supported and embraced it as a pastor at my previous church, however I did struggle with how to appropriately celebrate a teen's coming to faith. It is a special time when a child of the covenant (a child baptized as an infant) embraces the gospel of their parents as their own. It should be celebrated with the entire church community.
I realized Sunday night how much I and the body missed out on celebrating God's salvation because there wasn't an effective, appropriate way to celebrate. After one is baptized as an infant there's no second baptism when a person comes to faith. That's fine, my concern is how do we as youth leaders help students embrace and share the transformation in their lives when they come to faith?
So let me pose the question this way, how are you bringing the community together to celebrate middle school and high school students coming to faith? Is that even on your radar or when a student embraces the gospel does it just kind of melt in with the rest of your programming. It gives God glory and us joy when the community of faith celebrates those who move from death to life.
BTW, my daughter (who I baptized Sunday night) understands and embraces the gospel and doesn't really remember a time she didn't know Jesus, she must be a child of the covenant.