Tuesday, January 13, 2009

George the Baptist

This past Sunday, our church held its first Baptism Service of 2009. Now I was baptized as a young Christian and I've seen my father, Pastor George Johnson, Sr., perform dozens of such services. But as we made preparations for this recent service, I found myself suddenly struck by the sheer magnitude of what it means to be Baptized. To watch my father leading believers to the water just like John the Baptist did some 2,000 years ago, to see the faces of those willing and ready to "take the plunge" both physically and spiritually, it is simply amazing to consider the Biblical significance of the moment. As the candidates cautiously approach the steps of our spacious, indoor, heated pool, do they realize they are mimicking the very actions of Christ? Do they see the Holy Spirit descending upon them like a dove? Do they hear the voice of God Himself voicing His heavenly approval of their faith? I hope so, and if not now, perhaps as they grow and mature in Christ.

Which leads me to my next thought. What has happened to the Church as a whole honoring the Ordinances of Christ? This isn't meant to be an argument as to what should be considered as the Ordinances of Christ, for that will be a never-ending debate. Some churches/denominations recognize as few as 1, others as many as 4 or more. But I think the two most can agree on is the celebration of the Lord's Supper and Water Baptism. But it appears that the practice of Water Baptism has gone underground. Ministries in my city and around the country go to great lengths to promote musicals, concerts, conferences, convocations, theatrical productions, cake walks, prayer breakfasts, spaghetti dinners, Men's/Women's Days, Youth Explosions, but you never hear of a church announcing it has welcomed new souls into the kingdom and they will be affirming their faith in Baptism. When did what the Bible described as a public declaration of faith become a private affair?

I'm just a young man, but I've heard the stories of the saints of old, making their way to the river bank singing "Take Me To the Water" or "Let's Go Down by the River". In those days, the service was by default a public affair that mirrored the ministry of John the Baptist and the practice of the early Church far more closely than what we see (or don't see) today. Sure enough, some churches have pools within their sanctuaries while others can rent out a pool facility, such as the local YWCA (as we did before moving into our new building). But should these luxuries cause us to privatize the public profession of faith? I would say no. Rather, I'd challenge all who proclaim Christ, including my own church, to restore this wonderful event to its proper public status; not to the embarrassment of the candidates, (which shouldn't be an issue anyway - Mark 8:38) or to make a spectacle, but as a witness to the world that Jesus still saves, renews, restores, and regenerates all those who trust in him.

So here's hoping in 2009 that between the announcements for BBQ dinners, church anniversaries, bake sales, and choir musicals, we'll see in our local newspapers an announcement that yet more souls have been rescued from darkness and believers everywhere are invited to celebrate and share in their Baptism.

elder todd

Matthew 3:13-17
13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.

14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

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