Inflatable pool set up in the back yard?
Everyone advised as to the change in locale?
Males ordained by a local incorporated church, trained to perform baptisms in keeping with convention norms and expectations?Umm….no.
New believer’s classes completed by baptismal candidates?
Yeah, we’re missing that one, too.
As you’ve likely figured out, this weekend we’ll be baptizing four people in an inflatable pool in our backyard. Two of them are my own kids, Emily and Zachary. The other two are locals, Deaf Ecuadorians who have expressed their faith in Christ, an awareness of their own sin, and an understanding of the unique hope that our Creator has offered us.
We usually meet in the basement of the hearing church across the street from the university, but we’ve decided, on the sly, to sneak over to our house for the baptism. We’re also planning a celebratory lunch afterwards; I’m providing the rice.
Still confused? I know what you’re thinking: Why have we left the church for a baptism, and what’s up with that thing about the ordained males? And the classes?
There’s a lot going on here. First off, our church plant focuses on Deaf Ecuadorians. We meet separately from others not in disunity, but for language and culture purposes. Second, we are trying to teach and train local Deaf leaders to guide the church in every way. Third, this is our group’s first baptism, and everything will be highly scrutinized, studied, and – eventually – copied under the assumption that it is all Biblical. Fourth, the hearing leaders at the church building assume that all baptisms will pass through their hands, denying our leaders the chance to learn. Fifth, we have no ordained men, and that’s because, sixth, we only have Christian women.
The plan this weekend is for me to baptize my children, and then to have the leader of our group baptize the next believer. That newly baptized believer will in turn baptize the next believer. We will do this in order to have the group continue to learn that every Christian has a part, a role, a duty in His body.
That’s the great part. Want to know the not-great part?
According to IMB rules, my children will be unable to become IMB workers due to their baptisms. Because our church is not formally incorporated, the notion of being baptized into and under the authority of the local church is a little bit of stretch; not out of the question, just a stretch. Add to this the fact that our children attend worship with the hearing folks and yet were baptized by a separate deaf church plant to which they are only partially connected. What’s more, while I certainly understand all the concepts involved in the purpose behind baptism and the security of the believer, most of our Christians are so new that they are somewhat weak in their comprehension of these important concepts.
Want to add insult to injury? We’re going to do this great thing, and yet in order to avoid problems locally we can’t mention it to people at the hearing church. These are great folks, willing to allow us to use space in their church building for free. They have been warm and loving, and yet if they were to find out that we chose not to bring the Deaf Christians to be baptized by the church’s pastor in the church’s baptistery after attending the church’s new believer’s class, they would likely ask us to leave.
It feels odd, this seeming lack of appreciation for a wonderful event. It seems as though the IMB would applaud the baptism of the nationals but frown on my children’s baptism. At the same time, I think the local church would accept my children’s baptism more easily than they would that of the Deaf nationals. Is there anyone who will recognize the validity of both sets of immersions?
Fellow blogger and IMB worker Guy Muse wrote a post (seen here) few years ago touching on some of these same issues with a few twists.. At rock bottom, we have to ask the same thing Guy did: were these people baptized Biblically?
Just as practically, what response shall we give those who object to our approach?