Seriously, it’s sort of like a drug for me. One of the best things I love about pastoring the Highland Campus is getting the chance to sit across the table and hear about people desiring to grow in their relationship with Jesus. The reasons for wanting to take this next step are as different as the people I talk to. Just now, someone said they wanted to do it to demonstrate the importance of their commitment to Jesus and to model this next step for their family. I’ve sat across the table from people who were so overjoyed and excited about this decision that they probably would have jumped into the water right then and there if some had been available! It’s very exciting. And really cool.
I also think baptism is an incredibly significant decision in our cultivating a personal relationship with Jesus. In fact, I’d go as far to say I think it is the most important decision. That’s the experience from my story. I was raised in church, and I’m not sure that there would ever be a time in my life that I’d say I wasn’t a believer in or follower of Jesus. But growing up, I always waffled on baptism. When I was 11 or 12, I told my parents I’d go forward at church and then I didn’t one Sunday. Eventually on July 25, 2002 at the ripe old age of 14, I was baptized into Christ in a swimming pool in Spartanburg, South Carolina. My life was never the same.
I think of baptism like a wedding. Maybe it’s my own lack of marriage experience, but I feel like all at once everything changes and nothing changes. You’re still with the same person you were before. The relationship really hasn’t changed… marriage is just one day. But by the same token, everything’s different. You’re now living together. You’re making decisions forever as a unit, not necessarily individually. The love for each other was always there, but now in a new way. A high-level of commitment, while changing nothing simultaneously changes everything. I’ve experienced that in my relationship with Jesus. The love was always there. But against the backdrop of commitment, the relationship has grown deeper. Richer. More extravagant. More beautiful than I could have ever imagined.
I don’t apologize whatsoever: I want everyone who is a part of Suncrest to make the decision to be baptized. And so today on the good ol’ Cultivate blog, I wanted to explore some of the reasons why we don’t make this commitment. They’re listed in no particular order. But I hope they stir some new consideration for you. And maybe even encourage you to take a next step by e-mailing your Campus Pastor or even just replying in the comments section!
“I don’t know enough.” I hear this one often. I understand the heart. We don’t feel like a Bible scholar, and we want to make a well-informed decision. I can absolutely appreciate that desire to “count the cost” in following Jesus. But I think there are two simple things to be said here. For one, we are equating knowledge with spiritual maturity. Don’t get me wrong; knowledge is a part of that. But it’s not everything. And that leads me to point #2: For most of us, our knowledge far outweighs our obedience (so said the late, great Dallas Willard). If you know enough to decide that you love Jesus, desire to make him Lord and Savior of your life, and want to follow him, you know enough to take this next step.
“I need to ‘get my act together.'” I think this was part of what delayed me in making this decision. I felt like I just wasn’t good enough. But that’s part of the issue here; if we were perfect, we wouldn’t need Jesus! The act of surrendering our lives to Christ is an act that says, “God, I know it is only by your grace that I am saved.” If you feel like everything in your life isn’t put together, then good! You are a prime candidate for receiving God’s grace and taking the next step of surrender through baptism.
“I feel like I haven’t been in church long enough.” This is closely related to the last point, I think. We feel like there needs to be some sort of “probationary period” so we can prove to God (and maybe ourselves or others) that this decision is going to really “take.” I absolutely appreciate the heart to be disciplined and not make a flippant decision. But the great news is that in the Bible, God doesn’t ask us to delay! In fact, he encourages us to take action right away! In Acts 2, Peter preaches a sermon and right there on the spot, those who are convicted get baptized. In Acts 8:26-40, the apostle Philip meets an Ethiopian official who desires to become a Christ follower. Philip doesn’t make him wait to be baptized; he actually baptizes him right on the next spot where they find water (8:36-38)! If you’re ready to make this decision, don’t let this be your barrier. The Bible’s model in many different places is that the time to be baptized is as soon as you come to believe in the gospel message about Jesus.
“What about my family?” I greatly appreciate this question, because I think it’s reflective of our individual journeys and stories. Some of us are/were raised in families that have different ideas about faith than we do. Maybe everyone in your family is Catholic and you were sprinkled as a kid, but didn’t really come to faith until you were an adult. You want to make this decision, but you know your family would disagree. For others of us, it is more that no one in our family is open to faith, and we’re discovering Christ for ourselves. We know this decision would potentially invite not just disagreement, but ridicule. And of course, some of us are in a place where we have family members who believed differently than us and have now passed away. Is my decision saying they are wrong? These are all valid questions, and they’re worth thought, prayer, and conversation. But without being crass, I want to say that baptism is always a decision that concerns God and ourselves. Let’s avoid the temptation to allow others’ thoughts and opinions to stop us from doing the next right thing that we believe God has asked us to do!
“I’m just not ready.” This is probably the most difficult one for me to unravel. You might make this statement and be absolutely right. If you’re unable to commit to placing your faith in Jesus Christ as the divine Son of God and Savior of our world, you’re not ready for this decision. If you’re unable to commit to repenting and doing a 180 from the stuff in your life that’s not honoring to Christ, you’re not ready. But my experience is that we often throw this up as a smokescreen excuse. I know I did. Oftentimes, what I think we’re really saying is we’re scared. We’re not ready to lose certain behaviors and patterns in our life to embrace new ones. We’re not ready to surrender our lives to someone else. If any of those are the case, wrestle. But don’t allow the conversation to stop with a mere smokescreen excuse. You owe it to yourself to really wrestle all of this to the ground as you weigh what it means to follow Christ.
I hope this is helpful! Again, if you’re interested in making this decision, reply in the comments or e-mail the campus pastor at your campus and let us know! We’d love to talk with you.
What about you? What are some other things you encountered in your journey toward baptism? What might be holding you back?