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?