Practical Reflections on Baptism (by Adam Blosser)

Adam Blosser is the pastor of Drakes Branch Baptist Church, in Drakes Branch, Virginia, and blogs at One True Joy

Over the last week on SBC Voices we have debated baptism as it relates to church membership, and whether or not we have the authority to use a different mode for baptism when immersion just isn’t possible.  Let me see if I can stir the baptism pot a little more, but change the direction.

Let me begin by telling you what a typical baptism service looks like in the church I pastor.  Near the beginning of the morning worship service, I bring the candidate(s) for baptism up on the platform.  I share with the congregation that I have met with this person and have heard of his faith in Christ.  It is at this time that the candidate has the opportunity to share with the congregation a brief testimony of his faith in Christ if he would like.  I pray for the candidate out loud, and we exit the service to prepare for the baptism.

After we have had time to change into our white baptism robes, I enter the baptistry.  I typically recite The Great Commission from Matthew 28, say a few words, and then welcome the candidate into the pool.  At that point, I ask the candidate three questions: 1) Do you believe that you are a sinner in need of God’s grace? 2) Do you believe that Jesus came to earth, lived a sinless life, died on the cross to pay for your sin, rose again three days later, ascended into heaven, and will one day return to establish His kingdom forever? 3) Do you commit to living a life of continued obedience to God and His commands?  The candidate presumably responds in the affirmative to each question.

At that point I say, “Then it is based upon your profession of faith and in obedience to our Lord’s command that I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”  As I am lowering the person into the water, I say, “Buried with Him in the likeness of His death.”  And as I am raising him up out of the water, I say, “Raised to walk in newness of life.”

At that point the congregation cheers by standing, clapping, and shouting “Amen!”  I then pray for the newly baptized believer before we leave the baptistry.

We conduct baptisms on Sunday mornings during our worship service; we don’t relegate baptisms to Sunday nights when not even half of our congregation is present.  Baptisms are always a highlight of our worship service.  I recently told someone that I wish we had someone to baptize every Sunday, both because it would mean that people were coming to faith in Christ each week, and because it is such a joyous time in the life of our church.

I expect that baptisms are a lot more solemn in some SBC churches.  In fact, I have been a part of SBC churches where you may have received death stares had you stood and cheered when a person was baptized.

I expect there are other churches where the celebration is even more exuberant.  In fact, Cross Church in Arkansas, where the newly elected SBC President Ronnie Floyd pastors, just had a huge baptism celebration on June 29 complete with fireworks, live music, and patriotism.  Most of our churches aren’t capable of throwing such a party, and many of us would be hesitant to do so if we could.

I will also add to this post that we do not limit the act of baptizing to the pastor(s).  Our last baptism was performed by the father of the young lady who was being baptized.  It was a beautiful time as he testified to his relationship to her as brother in Christ being even more important than his relationship to her as father.  I see no reason from the New Testament that any believer cannot baptize a new believer.  In fact, The Great Commission, along with the command to baptize, is given to all believers.  I expect some of you may disagree with me here.

What do you think?  What should baptism look like in the life of the church today?  Should it be reverent, celebratory, emotional, solemn, joyful, or some combination of all of these things?  Should baptism be performed by the pastor(s) only, or are all believers permitted to baptize?  What does baptism look like in the local congregation of which you are a member?

Comments

  1. Dave Miller says

    Unfortunately, Baptism at my church is not nearly as common as it ought to be. I’d love to have so many baptisms that we find ourselves in danger of treating them perfunctorily. Right now, it grieves and disturbs me that such is not the case!

    My only problem is that between baptisms, my waders seem to be shrinking regularly. Not sure how that happens.

  2. says

    Our baptisms are respectfully celebratory. We don’t do fireworks, but we do rejoice with applause and “amens”. It’s not that fireworks are wrong, per se, but I think it may make it feel too much like a circus event than a divine ordinance. We have also been asking candidates to share a brief testimony in their own words with the congregation as well as make a led profession of faith just before they are baptized.

  3. David Rogers says

    I like the idea of having the person being baptized make some public, verbal confession of their faith in Christ at some point during the baptism service. For those who are really shy, at least say out loud, “Jesus is Lord.” But, even better, allow each person being baptized to share a testimony of how they came to Christ, and why they are choosing to follow Christ in baptism.

      • Tarheel says

        That’s a good idea. I shutter at the idea of ‘forcing’ one to speak publicly. Not everyone is thrilled about such things like most of us.

        Question..if one was truly shy and not willing to speak or read their testimonial..would someone read what the new convert has written for them?

    • David Rogers says

      If “peeps” means “people,” then “mems” must mean “memple.”

      • Dave Miller says

        Evidently, my copying and pasting skills are imperfect. I’ve added the “ber?” at the end of the post that I previously left off.

    • Adam Blosser says

      Looks like Miller cut out the end of my post where I pointed out that Tarheel is apostate due to his beliefs on baptism expressed in the earlier posts. He just cut it off a little too early. ;)

  4. says

    Adam
    Somewhat ironic that you should post this at this time. We baptized this past sunday. My pastor/son asked each person for some testimony which was exciting. Then the baptism with much shouting, applause and amens. Being the old timer that I am, I learned to baptize with much dignity and without even a sound of a splash when the person went under. The only sound was the organ playing softly under the entire event. The only voice heard was my voice. That is how I was taught at the Jerusalem Baptist Seminary (St. Peter was the president then, he was a Trad.)
    Why do I then say “ironic”. For the first time I found myself applauding and shouting. Quite a step for me. I have to admit it seemed right and felt good.

    Now if I could only do this with the horrible contemporary music I must tolerate each sunday. I am not holding my breath.

    • Tarheel says

      DL,

      Act act of God (lightening) took out our organ several years ago, and Thanks be to God – we have not replaced it.

      Organs are, IMO appropriate for 2 only places…. funeral homes and horror movies.

      • Greg Harvey says

        I was telling one of our clients at “Globe Life Park” in Arlington that I remember when the Rangers added an organ at the previous Arlington Stadium (aka Turnpike Stadium) and how I hated it…circa 1977 or so.

    • dr. james willingham says

      That was after he had been won and ordained by Cals, but then the church where that happened was a happy mixture of both Cals and Trads. Here in our son’s church, they lift up hands to the Lord, something that only I did at some point in the baptismal observance. I haven’t yet got to the point of doing the same, but my wife is in favor of it (I think). Life is a deuce mixture.

  5. Chris Johnson says

    I like the idea of baptizing as soon as possible, and without any special criteria. Fireworks seems a bit staged to me at least.

    The biblical model works for me…..Acts give us a lot of good examples

    1. Could be in a basement
    2. Could be on the side of the road
    3. Could be in a tub behind the pulpit
    4. Could be in someone’s home
    5. Could be at a revival (Acts 2)

    I agree with David, that a testimony and confession would be great as well, even if that comes in a service later.

    -Chris

  6. Tom Bryant says

    We bring the kids from Kids Zone (children’s church) into the service. We usually baptize in our 2nd service, so we invite the early service people to stay for the baptism and many do. We introduce the person in the pool and sometimes they give their testimony. I ask if they have trusted in Christ for salvation and if they want to follow Him in baptism. The answer is always yes because we have met with the person before that day. With kids under 1, the children’s workers have met with them, than I have met with them and then we meet with them and their parents before agreeing to baptize them.

    After baptizing, we clap and cheer. It’s not a solemn occasion because we are celebrating that we have accomplished what God has asked us to do as a church.

  7. Tarheel says

    All jokes aside (for a moment) Adam, thanks for posting this. It was an inspirational read.

    In our church…the mood is both celebratory and solemn…

    Some stand and clap, some shout amen, others sit and clap and still others sit solemnly. Its all good and worshipful, and we do not have an “expected’ response.

    Sometimes we have testimonies by the new believer and other times we do not. I typically ask the new converts I baptize (BY IMMERSION ;-) ) to publicly affirm their faith in some way though.

      • Tarheel says

        Yes.

        however if by immersing you are likely to kill a sister … Then in that rare and special case, with explanation, a pouring wouldn’t cause the world to end. ;-)

        We as Baptists amend communion regularly … So it ain’t like the amending an ordinance is unheard of. ;-)

  8. William Thornton says

    If I were younger, I still don’t think I would buy into the idea of parental baptisms. I have no biblical objection to it but would prefer to avoid the inevitable conflicts that might arise. Pastor and staff have always done the dunking in my churches…with an occasional preacher grandad. Suppose a single mom wanted to baptize her son or daughter. Would this present a problem?

    What do you think about the candidate being asked if Jesus is in his/her heart as the baptismal question (I always asked, “Is Jesus The Lord of your life?” Or similar.

    No need to thank me for looking for problems in a positive and uplifting article. ;)

    • David Rogers says

      I suppose Romans 10:9–10 (and perhaps 1 Peter 3:21) is the closest thing I have to a scriptural basis for it (and I am not meaning to imply the verbal confession itself is what saves), but I really prefer for those being baptized to give their own testimony of faith rather than just responding yes or no to a question suggested to them by someone else. I believe it helps the person being baptized “own” the public profession they are making in a way that just answering a question does not.

  9. Adam Blosser says

    I do not have a problem with a believing lady performing a baptism. I can’t find any scriptural warrant for opposing such. I expect some in the church I pastor would though, so I have not gone there.

    I would not ask if “Jesus is in his/her heart”. I prefer a more substantial question, but I don’t think that question is inherently unbiblical.

    • William Thornton says

      So, you would accommodate a mother or grandmother on the same basis?

      • Adam Blosser says

        I would not have a problem with it theologically.

        However, I would not go down that road at the present time for pastoral reasons. I expect that some in our local church would not be open to such a practice, at least not with a lot of convincing. I have only extended the opportunity to baptize to fathers up to this point. Offering for believing fathers to baptize their child was actually the practice of the church before I came (it might be that the previous pastor began such a practice). Not every father that I give the option to has taken me up on it.

        • says

          Adam
          I do not agree with you theologically re the woman baptizing . However I do have a great respect for your Pastoral sensitivity. You have a true pastor’s heart.

          • says

            William T
            To be honest I am not sure I can explain my belief. I am willing to admit that I am just an old foogy and I have “never done it that way before”. The nearest I can come is that I do not believe in ordination of women and for a woman to baptize is at least a second cousin to that concept. I cannot Imagine the Apostle Paul letting a woman baptize.

            The bottom line is twofold: (1) I would not break fellowship with a pastor who allowed such (2) In my heart I think it is wrong and I feel no real need to defend my belief, since I am causing no harm.

  10. Volfan007 says

    Adam, I like the way y’all do baptisms…sounds great….and sounds similar to the way we do them….with a few minor differences. I also like the idea of having them on Sunday mornings….when more people will be there to see it.

    David

  11. TRB says

    Couple of observations from a layman here. First, and significantly missing from the other two threads on baptism, is that fact that for many cultures and families, baptism is a significant social event that brings visitors to your church that would never darken your doors otherwise. So don’t do it first thing just to get it out of the way so the “real” service can start. Your visitors are still on the road or just making it in from the parking lot. Give them time to get settled so they can witness their loved one taking this step of public testimony.

    By the same token, don’t cram it in at the end as if it is an afterthought or a chore to be rushed through. As noted above, allow a verbal or written testimony, allow family and friends to be recognized (and even pray if appropriate) while their loved one is baptized. I concur with those above who suggest people other than the pastoral staff can baptize.

    Maybe even set your sermon series aside for a week–or at least tie the baptism into the service WELL. Make more of it–not less! Same with the Lord’s Supper…

    TRB

    • Christiane says

      from Isaiah 42:5
      ‘Thus saith God the LORD,
      He that created the heavens, and stretched them out;
      He that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it;
      He that giveth breath unto the people upon it,
      and spirit to them that walk therein ‘