I had the privilege, recently, to see something that doesn't happen every day. Our church's lead pastor had the opportunity to baptize his son. It was a beautiful moment in the life of the church. Our pastor, who usually is a picture of composure on the platform, was noticeably emotional, and his voice even cracked a few times as he prepared to baptize his boy. As a guy who has served as a pastor in the past, it was emotional for me as well. I look forward with hope and anticipation to the day where, Lord willing, I'll have the chance to baptize my own kids. It was great to be a witness to God's faithfulness in my pastor's life, and look ahead to hopefully celebrating that same kind of faithfulness in my own some day in the future.
Except it might not happen.
I may not have the occasion or opportunity to baptize my own kids. Setting aside, for a moment, the possibility that my own kids don't become believers, I'm not a pastor right now, and there are zero guarantees that I will be when they are ready.
And after all, only pastors baptize right?
I was baptized by my pastor, the same one from my story above. and I'd wager that those of you reading, especially from a believer's baptism perspective, have also been baptized by your pastor or some other formal leader within your church. Perhaps a deacon, elder, or ministry leader.
But why do we do it this way?
Why do pastors baptize? I imagine there are many reasons for this, and most of them are good. Pastors baptize because they are the 'face' of the church. They're visible, and accustomed to doing this type of thing in front of a crowd. Many people would say that baptisms are a crucial part of a pastor's job. I'd agree. I'd even add that it is one of the happiest duties of a pastor. The more Liturgical or "High Churches" tend to list baptism as a sacrament and thus, reserve it for ordained ministers.
But I am increasingly convinced that when we insist, or worse relegate, baptism to the office of pastor or "ministry leader" we lose something meaningful that we were each meant to experience as individual believers. Let me show you what I mean.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." This oft-quoted passage in Matthew is, of course, the first part of the great commission. In this passage, Jesus is speaking to the eleven remaining disciples and letting them know what the next part of the mission is. Namely: "Go tell everyone about me and the Good News of what I've done. When they believe, baptize them." Shouldn't we all then be baptizing new believers as the Lord gives us the opportunity? More importantly, why do we let our pastors hog all the fun?
Now, it can certainly be argued that Jesus, here, was speaking to the eleven and that His instruction was to and for them and for modern day church leaders by extension. However, nobody says that about evangelism, or about sharing our faith in general, no, that is for all of us and rightly so.
If we are all called to share our faith with others, why don't we get the opportunity to "close the deal" as it were? When I was in ministry, baptism was a great joy that I had, but I always encouraged the people I baptized to choose someone else to baptize them. Someone who was important or instrumental in their faith journeys. Nobody ever took me up on it; in fact, most of them looked at me funny for even suggesting it.
Now, don't misunderstand me. I don't think it's wrong that pastors baptize, nor do I believe that baptism ought to be foisted upon all of the members of Christianity, many of whom are already bashful or insecure about sharing their faith in the first place. What I am advocating here is a focused effort to bring people into one of the most important facets of Christian life. Baptizing new believers.
If you are a pastor reading this, consider asking baptismal candidates (or whatever phrase your church uses) if there is anyone they would like to baptize them or even "co-baptize" and have two people baptizing one candidate. Assuming, of course, the person baptizing is a baptized believer themselves.
If you are reading this and considering baptism, think about this. Who was important in your journey to this point? Who was it who showed you Christ so clearly so that you now want to be publicly numbered among His people? Would you consider asking them to play a role in this big moment in your life?
Baptism is a step of obedience for a believer and an important one at that. But perhaps God is asking you to be obedient in taking this step of maturity as well. If you are a follower of Christ, don't think about this as "one more thing I'm supposed to do now." Think of it more like: "Getting to reap the first fruits of the harvest."
One of the things pastors struggle with is breaking through the "sacred/secular" divide. Your pastors desperately want you to become more active in the life of the church. This might just be one chink in that divide that might be the easiest to lose.
As a Biblical conservative, a cultural Liberal, a husband, a dad, and a pastor, I want to see the church act differently in the world. My big passion in ministry is to see how believers can bring the Gospel into the world around them while pursuing the lost art of winsomeness. It is what fuels me and drives me to write. Engaging culture with the truth of the Gospel in a way that is winsome, wise, and as Colossians 4:6 directs us: “seasoned with salt.” It’s my hope that what I say here helps you not only in your own faith, but helps you share it more effectively and fruitfully.
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