Okay, I thought I had finished this little series, but the conversation in the comments in this post has continued and has prompted me to write one more post.
I’ll be honest. I’m still really wrestling with what we’re going to do here at Gateway. For us to prevent kids to be baptized when it’s happening spontaneously like this seems very anti-Gateway. I don’t feel comfortable with it. However I must admit that every day I think about this, I dislike doing what we’re doing even more. I think I’ve narrowed it down and reached a conclusion on what is most important.
I feel it might be dangerous to allow kids to decide to get baptized because they feel like it the day we’re doing it as a church. That’s right, dangerous. Don’t get me wrong. There are some kids who come up to get baptized and they’ve made a genuine decisions and this was the day they decided to be baptized. However, I don’t think it is the majority.
Here’s the danger. So, a child wants to get baptized. Well, we have people there to meet with that child and talk with them. Often times the person meeting with the child leads them to faith or does the best they can to explain it. What’s dangerous is that we’ve placed our focus on them getting baptized, not their decisions to become a slave to Christ! “Oh, you’ve never asked Jesus to be your Lord and savior? Let’s do that real quick so you can get baptized.” God forbid they miss out on being baptized. Let’s convert ’em real quick.
Shouldn’t our focus be on their decision to become a Christ Follower? I spend the first five minutes of my class teaching the kids that baptism is something you do as a result of deciding to follow Christ. I also repeat many times that the baptism isn’t nearly as important as this decision. We’ll do more baptisms. Don’t rush this decisions. Baptism can wait. I’m not saying that this is related in any way, but why do we wonder that 70+ percent of our kids abandon their faith when they leave home? Did you hear that? 70+ percent of our kids walk away from their faith when they leave for college. Do you think it’s because we’re elevating baptism above a commitment to Christ? It’s nothing for us to see hundreds of kids come to faith in a year. Woo hoo! That’s awesome! But I think I’d be satisfied to see half that number make this decision if I knew that they really, really, really got it.
Here’s my sticking point. When I walk out of the baptism class, I walk out knowing that they got it. They really got it. Some parents write on their response form “not sure they have made a decision.” That’s great. At least we know where they stand. Let’s not baptize them yet. Let’s make sure they got it.
Really, what’s most important?
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Here are my two cents on this quote:: “Iâ€™m not saying that this is related in any way, but why do we wonder that 70+ percent of our kids abandon their faith when they leave home? Did you hear that? 70+ percent of our kids walk away from their faith when they leave for college.”
What are we as parents doing to help them grow even closer to Christ? We can’t (and shouldn’t) ever assume that once someone has been baptized (adult OR child) that faith and the search for Christ ends there. Why aren’t we teaching EVERYONE “My heart says of you, ‘seek his face’, your face Lord, I will seek” – Psalm 27?
I don’t know where everyone who reads this lives, but Austin Christ followers are sometimes seen as “Consumer Christians” because we aren’t hungry and chasing after God with all our hearts, minds, and souls. Most ADULTS aren’t even doing this so it’s no surprise that children leave their faith once they move on to college.
I don’t know what will happen to my children once they leave my home. I know I pray that they will have an all consuming fire inside them to seek the face of Chrsit all of their lives. I know I try to train them in the ways of our Father, and I know we try to model God’s love to them. That doens’t mean they won’t abandon their faith, too once they leave. But I do know that right now they all love and trust Jesus. They already think he lives in their hearts and that he is the King of the universe. They know that even mommy and daddy have to obey him and my prayer is that God has laid a solid foundation for each of them.
I so hear your struggle, Kenny. I still think there isn’t a one answer that fits all. I guess you just take it case by case. I know for us, Reagan already thought Jesus lived in his heart and that he was our King. He doesn’t know a time in his live when Jesus wasn’t in his heart or that we have to live according to his teachings. That still doesn’t protect my son from the temptations of this world. Teenagers (as well as adults who have spent their whole lives in church) adandon their faith for all kinds of reasons. Is that ONE child out of 100 (or whatever the number is) who really does “get it” and who really was called by the Holy Spirit not enough? I dunno, it’s a tuff call.
I believe the word of God is alive and active. I believe that even if Reagan (or my other children) does leave his faith that God promises “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11
Karins last blog post..Open Handed II
hmmm I can’t really picture James saying, “Now are you absolutely positive you know what it means to walk with Christâ€ to each person that came to be baptized. He was bringing them in, baptizing them by the droves. People searching, not even knowing what for. But, James was baptizing them in the name of the Christ. Trusting God. We are all born with the desire to know God. So, I say Baptize everyone and anyone in the name of the Lord, for only God knows their hearts and it is not up to man to say yeah or nay.
I’m not sure the Ethiopian “got it” when he was baptized alongside the road.
If baptism is a sign of “I totally have this whole ‘following Jesus’ thing figured out” I’m not sure any of us could go through with it while maintaining integrity.
This may be a theological difference, so I’m careful not to go there.
However, I do feel like I can push back on your final paragraph:
“Hereâ€™s my sticking point. When I walk out of the baptism class, I walk out knowing that they got it. They really got it. Some parents write on their response form â€œnot sure they have made a decision.â€ Thatâ€™s great. At least we know where they stand. Letâ€™s not baptize them yet. Letâ€™s make sure they got it.”
What if baptism is that child’s first step in discovering who Jesus is? Would you be so bold as to deny them a chance to be baptized because their parents aren’t sure that the child “got” it from your class?
Anthony Princes last blog post..Orange Recap: Training Events for Small Group Leaders
So much of this is subjective. We don’t know how the disciples handled baptism. We don’t know who they let get baptized or who hey didn’t. The only thing I know is that Jesus wasn’t lax on who followed him. Jesus had high expectations on his followers. There was one time where he lost many of his followers becasue of his high expectations. Remember the rich young ruler? The guy came to Christ to know about eternal life (Matthew 19:16-24). That guy walked away without faith. To me this sets a standard for following Christ. We’re not looking for the lowest common denominator. That’s why I want kids to “get it” before getting baptized.
Anthony, to respond to your comment. I think you’re comparing apples to oranges. The Ethiopian didn’t know the ends and outs of who Jesus was and what he came to do. But, he was truly seeking. He knew enough to know that Jesus was the Messiah, he was the fulfillment of the prophesy that he was reading. His response to was to follow Christ and then get baptized. Most of these kids who spontaneously come forward to be baptized are not like the Ethiopian. They’re either just doing what their parents are asking them to do or they’re seeking baptism becasue the act of baptism intrigues them. In my opinion, they need to be seeking Christ, not baptism. I think almost 100% will once they understand what baptism is and how it fits into the context of everything, but they need to be directed toward that understanding. This can be done through the baptism class or instruction from their parents.
Last of all, when I say I walk out of the baptism class confident that they “got it” I’m referencing that they understand the basics of following Christ. They understand that they’ve sinned, that Christ provides forgiveness and that they have chosen to let Christ lead their life. Last of all, they know they’re getting baptized becasue they follow Christ. There is soooooo much more to our relationship with God. I’ve been a Christ Follower for over 25 years and I’m still learning things about my relationship with him. But, I became a Christ Follower when I chose to follow him, putting him in charge of my life.
To be honest, I’m not a hard nosed kid. I’ve not turned away kids from baptism. I’m just processing how we’ll do this in the future because I am not comfortable being put in this position. I’m so passionate about this because so many teenagers and adults get baptized saying that they didn’t understand what they were doing when they were a kid. When I hold these classes, parents are a part of the process and their equipped to lead their kids spiritually more than they were before the class.
Just my thoughts and my opinions. Keep it coming people. This is good stuff for all of us. I’m more than willing to change my mind, I just haven’t heard a compelling enough reason to yet.