THE IMPORTANCE OF AFFIRMING BAPTISM
Both for personal reasons (I have 4 children that I want to raise in the fear of the Lord) and for professional reasons (I’m in a church that is trying to be extremely intentional on how we bring up our kids in the faith), I took a seminar with Christian Reformed Church pastor and professor, Dr. Howard Vanderwell, entitled, “Affirming and Remembering our Baptisms.” I sense a deficiency on my part in leading our flock toward adequate prominence of this important sacrament.
It was a great seminar that both affirmed my hunches (I do need to emphasize baptism more at my church) and gave me practical ideas. Here are my takeaways:
- In churches where infant baptism is practiced the sinful tendency is to minimize its importance and effectively forget about it
- God actually does something at baptism; it’s not merely a symbolic act: He speaks promises over the child; He ingrafts the child into the body of Christ; He places a “covenant mark” (albeit physically invisible) on the child
- People of all ages should not only perpetually strive to remember their baptism, but affirm their baptism
- Parents, pastors, and children’s ministry leaders should use the language of baptism as often as they can when encouraging children to walk as disciples of Christ (e.g. In answering the question, “Why should we seek to manifest the fruit of the Spirit?” at least one of the important responses is, “Because you were baptized.”)
- The function of baptism speaks into at least three different areas of life: (a) my reception/status in the body of Christ; (b) my core identity as a person; (c) my vocation in life
I’ve come away with a few ideas I’m going to bat around with the other pastors at my church. These ideas would potentially, with repeated education coupled with fighting mindless repetition, raise the prominence of baptism in our congregation and be a strong source of strengthening and edifying the body of Christ on a regular basis:
- Keep the baptismal font out, open, and filled with water every week, whether or not we’re performing a baptism in that service
- Allow people to walk by and touch the water on their way to receiving the Lord’s Supper, as a way of reminding them of their journey (entry into the church in baptism, confirmation of life in Christ in the Lord’s Supper)
- Actually have the font filled with water pouring from a pitcher at the opening of every service. This fits nicely into our existing processional, and could be a significant ritual moving forward.