This idea is so simple I almost hate to dedicate an entire post to it. That, and the fact that since we’re talking baptism I can almost guarantee disagreement on some level. After all, almost every Christian group practices baptism, but almost every group practices it differently.
Some sprinkle, some immerse. Some baptize babies, others only baptize adults. Some think that only a pastor or priest can administer it, others think that any believer can perform it. Some believe your baptized then your saved, others believe your saved then your baptized.
No worries though. Each church interprets Scripture to the best of their ability and we’ll naturally have some differences of opinion. Right? Well, it’s usually not that simple. What happens when someone joins a different church from the one they grew up in? Does their baptism still count (so to speak)? Are they accepted as members or do they need to be baptized again?
It’s a sticky issue and, in my opinion, most churches handle it poorly. They usually do one of the following:
- Deny membership until the person has agreed to be baptized in the “right way” (i.e. the way we do it here). In some cases they even deny salvation as well, but that’s not really their call.
- Accept them on some level but continue to “encourage them” (i.e. badger, cajole and otherwise shame them) into finally yielding to their form of baptism.
Neither is a particularly good option and I’ve heard my fair share of horror stories. But here’s the thing (and pastors listen up)…most people who start attending your church aren’t looking for ways to reject God. They are looking for ways to obey God. That’s why they started coming in the first place! That’s why they scheduled an appointment to talk with you about baptism!
They are seeking God’s will. Recognize that and celebrate it! Don’t beat them up. Don’t tell them how they did it all wrong the first time. Don’t discredit the faith of their parents and grandparents. Just tell them what you believe the Bible teaches. Then back off and let them make their own decision.
I’ve found that whenever I’ve done that the majority are more than willing to submit to baptism. And not just as a membership requirement or so you’ll get off their backs. It’s something they genuinely want to do as an expression of their faith. Here’s a quick example of what I’m talking about.
Our church doesn’t practice infant baptism but we have many members who were baptized as infants. When they asked to place membership we didn’t wring our hands and worry. We celebrated! We celebrated the fact that they had faithful parents who wanted to dedicate their lives to God. And, while we admit that some of our Christian brethren disagree with us on this issue, we do encourage them to consider baptism as an adult.
I obviously believe there are some good reasons for that, but I’d rather not get into them here because that’s not my point. My point is simply that people aren’t looking for ways to resist God. They are looking for ways to follow him. So don’t make it more difficult that it has to be. Encourage and ask. Don’t judge and demand. You just might be surprised at their response.