I look forward to our church’s picnic every year. It is a great time filled with hamburgers, hotdogs, swimming, kickball and most importantly, people. It is even more important for the people at Central Church to attend events like this because we now have over a thousand people in our church and there are three different options for people to attend a weekend service. Even though we are getting “larger,” we will always be a family. And families have picnics.
On July 7, we had our church picnic. I will never forget it. Why? Because something happened at it that had never happened before. Someone was baptized. I still smile every time I think about what happened on that day. I was chewing on a hamburger when a young lady came up to me and introduced her new boyfriend to me. We started getting to know each other by asking each other questions and one of her questions was: “When is the next baptism?” I told her that it would be in September after school started again. She looked at me and asked another question: “Could I get baptized sooner than that?”
You know how when you are talking to people and they ask you something and a flood of thoughts just enter your mind? That is what happened to me in that moment. It took only two or three seconds for all the thoughts to enter and then exit my mind, but here were a few of them: Why can’t she just wait until September? She hasn’t taken any classes concerning baptism. Does she want to get baptized in a pool somewhere privately? I wonder if there are any hotdogs left? We are at a picnic where hundreds of Christians are already gathered. We are standing twenty feet from a pond. All you have to do is believe and then you can be baptized. Would she want to be baptized right now?
So I looked at her and looked at the water and asked her, “What about right now?” I honestly thought she was going to say, “I think I’ll just wait until September.” But she shocked me by stating, “Sure!” I told her to give me five minutes to gather everyone and then I would baptize her. She said, “That would be awesome!” I could see the glow in her eyes! Over the next couple of minutes I announced to the crowd that we would be having a baptism and I then proceeded to force all of the swimming children out of the pond (not a small feat) so that we would have room for the baptism.
With hundreds of adults and children watching us, the young lady and I proceeded into the pond. She shared a concise testimony and I asked her two questions: (1) Have you placed your trust in Jesus Christ as the Savior of your sins so that you may have eternal life? She said, “Yes.” (2) Do you promise to follow Jesus Christ as your leader as you involve yourself in a local body of believers? She said, “Yes.” Then I dunked her down into the catfish infested waters in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son Jesus Christ, and in the name of the Holy Spirit. And I lifted her up from the depths of the water to symbolize her new life in Jesus Christ.
The Christians gathered there clapped and cheered. They hugged her as she left the pond. What a moment! As I was walking out of the pond, a story came to my mind from the book of Acts. It was the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). Philip had just led the Ethiopian to a relationship with Jesus Christ (while they were both riding on a chariot!). And when their chariot passed some water, the Ethiopian stated, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” Both Philip and the Ethiopian got off the chariot and went into the water and Philip baptized the Ethiopian.
So many denominations over the centuries have complicated the event called baptism. You have to take a class before you can be baptized. You have to be a certain age before you can experience baptism. The form of baptism should be dunking. No, it should be pouring. Or maybe it should be sprinkling. If you get dunked, it must be backwards. No, do it forwards. Dunk me once. No, dunk me three times.
Why have we complicated something so simple and so beautiful? Just a short time before the baptism of the Ethiopian, Peter preached to the crowds: “Repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). Repentance is all we should require before baptism. In other words, turn from your way and follow Jesus Christ. And then show the world that you are a Christian by being baptized. Baptism, in its most simple definition, is a display of your surrender to Jesus Christ and your willingness to align with God.
This is why at Central Church, if you want us to baptize you by pouring water on you, we will gladly pour water on you in the name of the Holy Trinity. If you want us to baptize you by dunking you under the water, we will gladly immerse you into the water. As long as you have repented from your sins. If you have never been baptized, please consider it as an important step in your allegiance with Jesus Christ. You will never regret taking this stand for Jesus Christ!