My church tends to baptise youngsters in groups. If one says they’re getting baptised, either more of the same age group will follow, or the church takes classes in the hope that more will follow. Is that okay? What should churches keep in mind when administering the ordinance of baptism?
That’s an excellent question — and something many youngsters would have experienced, growing up. I know I did.
I remember when I was not truly a Christian, yet was at the ‘right age’ to get baptised, I had several people come up to me and ask what was keeping me from taking that step. They meant well; unfortunately, their line of questioning wasn’t coming from the place it should’ve. I was asked repeatedly if something was ‘wrong’, and even urged to remember my dad’s reputation in church, so it would be wise to get baptised without delay in order to avoid unnecessary ‘talk’.
While I eventually got baptised only once I truly came to faith, exchanges like these occur when churches miss the point of baptism: when they get caught up in the practicalities involved, as opposed to prayerfully discerning where someone is in their spiritual walk with Christ. So, yes, this is definitely a question that needs to be addressed.
I’d like to answer this question in two ways: first, by addressing the Biblical perspective of how churches should administer the ordinance of baptism; but also, second, by sharing a few things for the brother or sister who is feeling such a pressure to keep in mind, in terms of what they should do and what their responsibility is.
Your first question is: should churches take classes for baptism, in the hope that many others would join? I would say: yes and no.
One of the things we see in Scripture is how the apostles taught the Word firmly in all the churches, which we can understand to mean the doctrines and teachings of Jesus Christ. So, yes, every church has a serious responsibility to ensure that its congregation is firmly founded in Biblical doctrine. It is not of consequence whether they choose to do so once or twice a year; the point is that they need to do so with a view to ensuring believers are clear on what the Bible has to say on those subjects.
Every church has a serious responsibility to ensure that its congregation is firmly founded in Biblical doctrine
What we are seeing more often as a pattern, however, is that churches begin taking such classes once an individual shares their testimony and lets the church know they’d like to be baptised. Suddenly, there is a slew of classes and open invitations for those who aren’t baptised to do so. That is neither a wise nor scriptural approach to the situation.
Now, definitely, we want to help the brother/sister who has shared their testimony by encouraging them and talking to them further about this topic, but in doing so, we shouldn’t be thinking: “Oh, there are a few more kids of the same age; let’s try and get them baptised too.”
More than anything, the important question churches need to ask themselves is: what is their motivation in taking such a class? There are some churches who, after one youngster has expressed a desire for baptism, proceed to remind the congregation at every meeting thereafter that there still is time for those yet to be baptised to express a similar desire too.
Having worked with a lot of young people over the years, I have come across many who have said that they feel very pressured during this time because of the expectations of the church. If you’re that one person who is not yet baptised, definitely, the pressure will be on. But that is not how churches should administer the ordinance of baptism, nor should it be the motivation for taking such classes.
Baptism is a commandment given by the Lord Himself; therefore, we are to teach the church systematically, irrespective of whether someone has expressed a desire to be baptised or not.
The most important thing the church needs to look into is not the number of people they’re going to baptise, but who they are baptising. Is this brother or sister someone who’s walking with the Lord? Do they love the Lord and demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in their daily lives? If churches don’t make the effort to look into the spiritual lives of those who wish to be baptised, we’re missing the whole point of the ordinance.
The most important thing the church needs to look into is not the number of people they’re going to baptise, but who they are baptising
Baptism does not add anything supernatural to anybody. It is publicly saying to the world that we follow Christ, and we want everyone to know that. That’s it. There is nothing more spiritual that happens when you get baptised.
Now, on the other hand, I said I want to share a few things with those on the other side of this debate, those considering (or not considering) baptism. I want to start off by saying: when you feel pressured into getting baptised, you should never allow such conversations to be the driving force in causing you to take such a decision. If someone is pushing you towards baptism, you can always ask them to pray for you.
At the same time, it is important for you to ask yourself a few questions. Am I truly saved? If I’m truly a child of God, what is stopping me from being baptised? Why am I struggling to obey the commandment of the Lord?
I have come across many young people who believe that they can’t have any ‘fun’ after baptism; that they need to be more careful and cautious of their ‘sins’. This idea has crept into many young minds, because we have instilled this idea that, after baptism, we need to be super-serious Christians. Even after I got baptised, I remember folks who came up to me and told me how things have changed now, and I couldn’t do all the things I did “before”.
We tend to make baptism out to be much more than what it’s supposed to be. But here’s the thing: the most important thing for a Christian is not baptism, it’s salvation. We start denying the world and our flesh from the day we’re saved. From the time we commit our lives to Christ, everything we live for and everything we do is for Him and His glory. In other words, that’s the point everything changes, and from when you no longer live as you used to. It’s not something that happens on the day of baptism. It happens from the day you’re saved.
So, if you’re struggling with this idea of no ‘fun’ after baptism, you have a mistaken idea of salvation in the first place — because if you are truly saved, you are already called to forsake sin and pursue righteousness. If there was no Christ-like life before baptism, be rest assured: nothing is going to change after baptism either. Although many tend to act or live like they’ve gained some sort of extra spirituality after baptism, they often burn out if they’re not genuinely saved.
I hope this helps you understand what baptism is truly about, and what a healthy church practice looks like in this regard.
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