Ministry and theology… like a ninja.

Thinking through baptism prep

Yesterday in one of my college discussion groups we were talking about baptism, especially how we go about helping people prepare for it.  Some were saying very little prep happens in their church, others maybe five or six 1 hour sessions.  Some went through a book like ‘A Sneaking Suspicion (with high school students).

It got me thinking back to an essay I wrote in 1st year on the Didache (a 2nd century Christian document describing church practice).  Those guys back then made people go through a ‘catechism’ (pre-baptism teaching) for three years before they were allowed to get baptized and take communion.  Until then they were asked to leave the meeting room, along with all the unbaptized visitors, at the part of the church service where communion was shared.

That seems ridiculous now, with most churches seeing baptism as something which they want to encourage people to do with little or no requirements other than profess a faith in Jesus.

But perhaps we need to go back to being a bit more 1st century hard core.

Most agree that baptism is one of the most important steps in a Christians life, whether you have a sacramental view of it or not.  My own church tries to review its growth not on numbers coming to Sunday services, but based on how many people are getting baptized.  And yet when was the last time you heard baptism preached?  Have you ever been to a church that has a high view of baptism?  Where preparation is not just a cursory glance over the gospel of Mark, but a serious process which includes serious teaching on Christian life practices, ethics, theology, prayer, evangelism… the list could go on?

The leader of our discussion group pointed out that the Catholics really have it over us evangelicals in this area.  Their preparation course runs for an entire year, from one Easter to the next.

Today many people are still getting their knickers in a knot over infant vs. believer’s baptism.  Maybe we should stop arguing over that and start wondering if the people we are baptizing, or confirming, are actually prepared enough to take this step and hit the ground running towards the finish line.

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One response

  1. Good piece. I can’t remember the last time I heard baptism preached on, except for MD raving on about how many people got baptised at this or that service. I think it would be a really good thing to preach on for the discipleship of a church (what does it mean to be signed up? What is this bigger thing you’re part of that baptism signifies? cool questions…) I have a friend (although we’ve lost contact) who professed faith and was baptised too early, then soon after disappeared with no follow-up and accountability from the church that baptised them. I think the church failed them, and I don’t like the idea of it happening to anybody 😦

    Still, the New Testament seems to have quite a few places where people are baptised really quickly (Cornelius et. al, Philippian jailer, Ethiopian eunuch, etc.) – how theologically equipped were they, other than being moved by the Holy Spirit? And what allowances do we make for the time and place?

    Today many people are still getting their knickers in a knot over infant vs. believer’s baptism. Maybe we should stop arguing over that and start wondering if the people we are baptizing, or confirming, are actually prepared enough to take this step and hit the ground running towards the finish line.

    A very good question. And if you are going to infant baptise (something I have no problem with at all) then it’s beholden on the church to ensure the kid’s parents are in a sound place spiritually, too.

    August 16, 2011 at 2:31 pm

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