I'd been having a discussion with a pen pal about baptism, if you'd been wondering why I've been posting so much about it recently. Last weekend I stumbled across an Outreach Magazine interview with Andy Stanley titled "The Agile Apologetic." In it Stanley spoke about baptism:
"One of the things we do when we baptize new believers is show a video of each of them to the church detailing their story of faith. It's a requirement - we won't baptize you unless you're willing to make that public statement in that way. Honestly, it keeps our numbers low, but it makes our baptism impact very high. It becomes an extraordinary celebration. We baptize one to three people per service at all our campuses every other Sunday (I didn't know it was that often). We put baptisteries in our middle school and high school environments so younger believers are telling their stories to their peers as they are getting baptized. We take baptism as a public declaration super seriously, and we want them to go public in front of their public."
"Based on thousands of those baptism videos - and I'm thinking of college students and older here - there are the old, consistent stories. Pain. Brokenness. The dead ends of skepticism. Recovering from bad church experiences. Dealing with loss. Divorce. Business fallout. Losing children. I hear all the typical stories of the Prodigal Son, who had everything he ever wanted until suddenly he woke up and realized that he was missing what he needed most: a connection to the Father."
"The church that has the low rungs on the ladder and is the most welcoming, that has the best reputation in the community (me: as opposed to being out of touch with the community), those are the ones that will be doing the most evangelism. Brokenness leads to repentance. Sorrow causes everybody to look up. That's an on-ramp to faith. We need to capitalize on that in terms of how we talk about things, how we respond to people. One of our pastors here said years ago that we need to "walk toward the messes" in people's lives. That's right on. That's what Jesus did."
In the interview Andy said he'd recently attended a funeral at a large church that had signs leaving the parking lot that read "you are now entering the mission field." (JFBC has one of those signs). Andy said that nowadays that mission field is now inside the church. Stanley said that oftentimes non-believers and those searching for meaning and belief could be found in the church, siting the example of an agnostic who attended North Point. She was getting questions answered. Eventually she signed up to go on a mission trip overseas to give full time caregivers in an orphanage a break. She was going with a team of Christians. What a great way for her to see and learn how Christ and the church works and ministers.
As a teen I always remember one Sunday night long after an evening service a young girl decided she had to get baptized right then. I suppose it was just the girl, the pastor, and her family who went back up to the church for the quick baptism. Seemed liked she was trying to make it as private as possible, as opposed to a public declaration of her decision to follow Christ.
Thursday: Got a tree cut down today at the house. Had our meeting last night at JFBC. On the way home I stopped by the library, Kroger, and BP.