The Long Preparation for Baptism

Danny was sixteen years old when he began to regularly attend a Mennonite church. He had felt so welcomed during his years at their VBS and wanted to be a part of this congregation. As he studied the Word, he became convicted of sin in his life and wanted forgiveness. John, a brother from the congregation, explained God’s plan of salvation to him, prayed with him, and Danny gave his life to the Lord.

Danny read that in order to be saved, he must “repent and be baptized”, so he requested to be baptized.

The ministry team asked him if he was ready to become a member of their church. He was a bit confused and asked questions about what all that entailed. They explained that he would need to follow the rules and standards of the church. Danny was okay with that; it seemed to make sense.

They explained that he could join the next instruction class that was scheduled to begin in a few months. Then when he had completed the class, he could get baptized.

Danny was confused again. “So how long will that be? Can’t I just get baptized right away?”

The ministry explained that they wanted to be sure he really understood what being saved was all about. Danny said, “Brother John explained it all to me already. That’s why I prayed and gave my life to Jesus. Can’t I just get baptized right away?”

They explained that instruction class would also expound on how to live life as a Christian. Danny said, “But I learn about that every time I come to church. Couldn’t I just get baptized right away?”

But the ministry stood firm so Danny reluctantly agreed that he would join the next instruction class.

Meanwhile one of Danny’s brothers also got saved and was baptized in another church. So Danny went there instead and asked to be baptized. He was baptized the following Sunday. His desire to get baptized right away prevailed over his desire to join the instruction class where he would have to wait to get baptized for another year. Danny then continued to attend the Mennonite church, but never did join instruction class.

*************

So what do you do with Danny? Does he need to be confronted for the way he insisted on being baptized immediately? If we really believe that Scripture has an answer for every practice that we teach as Mennonites, what verse on baptism can we find to confront him for his actions?

Are there any examples in Scripture of the disciples or the early church making someone wait to get baptized?

Baptism Examples

In Acts 2 we see Peter preaching to a crowd. They are “pricked in their hearts” and ask, “What shall we do?” Peter answers, “Repent and be baptized.” Those that received his words were baptized and 3,000 souls were added to the kingdom. (Acts 2:37-41)

That’s a lot of people! How could they be sure that all 3,000 really understood what they heard?

In Acts 8, we read about some Samaritans who had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, but had not yet received the Holy Ghost; so Peter and John went to lay hands on them that they would receive the Holy Ghost.

Wait, shouldn’t they have waited to baptize them until they were sure they had been filled with the Holy Ghost? What about Simon (who had just gotten baptized), who immediately after witnessing the Holy Ghost fall upon the Samaritans, offers to buy this power to receive the Holy Ghost? Shouldn’t he have had a little more teaching before he was baptized?

In Acts 8:26-39, we can read the story of Philip and the eunuch. Here a man who apparently knew nothing about Jesus previously, but learns about the plan of salvation, believes on Jesus, and is baptized by Philip –all in one day.

I guess this story won’t work for confronting Danny either.

The story of Saul/Paul’s conversion is found in Acts 9. In verse 18, we see the scales falling from his eyes and he receives his sight. He then “arose, and was baptized”. This was one of the Church’s greatest enemies and even he received baptism the day he gave his life to Jesus.

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were thrown in prison and the jailer asked what he “must do to be saved”. They spoke to him and his household “the word of the Lord” (verse 32) and the same hour baptized them all.

Over and over, every scripture reference shows people believing, repenting, and getting baptized. Not one example shows a waiting time to learn more about all the aspects of Christianity or a time to prove salvation.

In Acts 19:1-8, Paul re-baptized some of John’s disciples, then stayed for three more months “disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.” So from this example, it could be presumed that baptism comes first, then more teaching could follow.

Maybe Mennonites just have the order of things mixed up. Maybe instruction class should follow baptism?

Raised in Church

What about those who have been taught Biblical Doctrine and Mennonite Principles all their lives? What reason can we give them for why we make them wait to be baptized? We can’t really give them the same reason that we give an “outsider”. I personally don’t know of anyone that came out of instruction class (after being raised in a Mennonite church) saying that they finally feel ready for baptism. That’s not saying it couldn’t happen, but I personally don’t know of anyone.

I have met many people who joined instruction class because that’s when everyone else in their age group did. And I have heard a lot of these same people tell how they got baptized after taking the class with still no heart change and no salvation experience.

So taking the class does not guarantee true salvation either.

Sometimes it seems that instruction class has become a dry ritual that we must endure to be accepted as “good enough” to be baptized now. It is an extra-Biblical ritual that we have turned into spiritual “proof of salvation”.

But what proof of salvation does the Bible require before baptism? Was a prayer of repentance and belief of Jesus as the Messiah not enough?

Whether we take instruction class before baptism or not, God sees the heart and only He knows whether true conversion has taken place. baptismThere is nothing we can do to assure ourselves completely that someone else is truly saved before we baptize them. But then, that’s not our job, is it? Our job is to present the Gospel,  but whether the seed takes root and grows is between them and God.

 

 

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “The Long Preparation for Baptism

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more on what you are saying I have seen countless people struggle with this, in our work in mission churches, etc. I pray that we will repent and start doing it like they did in the Bible!!

    Like

    • Thanks for commenting. Several friends of mine on the mission field have shared that baptism and participating in communion is a struggle they face often with new converts. Mission boards weigh in heavily and put pressure on doing it the “Mennonite way”. If we would go back to the Bible and do it like that, I believe we would see that “Radical Reformation” that I am praying for in our churches and on the mission field.

      Like

  2. If indeed you see no connection between baptism and membership…please expound on your beliefs about Lordship and obedience and accountability to a local body of believers. Scriptures do acknowledge a local body as an entity within the global body. What do you as the need for local membership and how should this be handled? I see your point but have always understood being saved and baptised as being saved and baptised into the body of Christ for fellowship and accountability. The global body of Christ cannot daily and weekly provide this fellowship or accountability. So in my mind it does make sense for the two…baptism and membership to be tied together. Respectfully submitted by one who does not “Love to hate the Mennonite way of understanding faith” Do you love the church?

    Like

    • Thanks for commenting, Kevin.

      Since there are no Scriptural references to look at regarding membership, it’s sometimes a bit hard to know exactly how we are to determine what God’s thoughts are on it. I have observed local churches that do not have membership at all and still hold those that attend accountable. I have also observed those people then choosing to leave because they did not like the admonition that was given to them (even though there was no “membership” per se). I have also observed the same thing in Anabaptist circles where membership is required.

      Maybe another question to investigate would be, is membership necessary to for “fellowship or accountability”? I’d like to do some digging on that subject. I personally have admonished another non-Anabaptist believer for sin, not because they attended the same church as I, but because I viewed them as my “brother in Christ”.

      I personally believe that when someone gets baptized, they are publically stating that they are now part of the global body of Christ. Baptizing does not make them that, it is only stating what already happened in a public way. If that “seed of faith” is growing in fertile ground (parable of the sower in Mat. 13:1-23), they will bear good fruit and will get involved in a local assembly.

      I don’t view Anabaptists as being the only true church, so my love for the church extends, not only to them, but also to those outside of my local assembly. Anabaptists have so many things right in their beliefs: non-resistance, love of the brotherhood, taking Biblical commands literally, and many more. They believe in living out their faith in their daily walk of life.

      Does that mean we do everything perfectly?

      When John writes to the churches in Rev. 2 and 3, he names specific things that God has against them. Bible scholars believe this was written sometime between 20-75 years after the churches began. If there were already then problems of being lukewarm, losing their first love, etc., I wonder what he would say to us today? And would we repent? Or are we as a church so resistant to change that we would refuse to hear?

      Like

  3. My story, which up until today I have been rather private about all these years . . . I was saved at age 10, and enrolled in Instruction Class eventually. And then when it was done, was refused baptism because the Mennonite ministry thought that I was “too immature” to handle church membership, esp. at a time when the church was in a great state of unrest. I was again run eventually through instruction class, and again denied baptism for similar reasons. I was becoming increasingly unsatisfied with what I viewed as being forced to be disobedient to clear Scriptures, and nothing my parents said when I challenged them on the matter satisfied me. I often cried and prayed about it privately, and finally, being a logical sort of child, the solution came to me. I took a plastic cup from the house, and went down into the woods to our creek and finally baptized myself in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I felt a great measure of peace then, as I knew I had done all I could to be obedient to God’s command to be repent and be baptized. I kept this completely private between God and me. After being run through another instruction class or two, I was finally allowed to be baptized publicly when I was about 13.5 years old. I knew it was a re-baptism, but I still kept my mouth shut about it. It is only in the last few years nearly 30 some years later that I am starting to talk about it a little more freely. I wonder how many similar stories of emotional and spiritual torment there are when people are denied baptism promptly upon salvation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am thoroughly enjoying reading your posts and wholeheartedly agree with everything I have read so far. Our church is a split off of a mennonite conference that took place in part (imho) due to our pastor challenging the position of the “bishop” in the church as being a nonbiblical approach ( all brethren should have accountability..in his words) and stating like you that we have returned to the ways of catholism in many aspects..especially in making our “bishop” almost out to be a “pope” of sorts in that he holds ultimate authority and is not to be challenged. He too began learning these things after studying anabaptist history. We have set up our church “government” with lots of checks and balances to avoid the corruption that so often comes with power.
    We have spent months that led into years talking about many of the things on your blog. baptism, church membership, jewelry, the head covering, etc. I was especially blessed by our pastors teaching on the headship order, divorce, etc. We have made many changes and I love the group we are a part of. I guess I am just enough of a radical, black and white kind of person that many of the changes didn’t go nearly as far as I would have thought they could..although I am not opposed to doing these outward things..I just feel we could have gone much further in making it easier for people to assimilate into the church. Example: we now allow traditional coverings or flowing veils that are black or white. I would have felt that any sort of scarf, snood, or whatever was readily available for purchase and did not require a special pattern or sewing skills would have been even more accomadating to new believers who choose to stand against culture and take up this biblical mandate.
    I agree that there is no scriptural reason to prohibit jewelry but some feel that Pet 3:3-4 would indicate that it is wrong. If we really wanted to take that position then no one should be braiding their hair either. And I am not someone who wears a wedding band or particularly cares about it; but I have seen firsthand how hard that was for some from non-mennonite background who joined the church to give up wearing their rings.and if my understanding of scripture was correct, it was unnecessary.
    I am a homeschooling mother of four who decided that I wanted my children to know the history of the Mennonite church and since there is no such curriculum I took it upon myself to buy 9-12 books on Mennonite church history and the life of Menno Simons to teach my own children these important facts.
    Less than two months into the school year our first foster care placement of a sibling group consisting of sisters ages 2 and 5 mos. arrived so our study of church history went from being a central theme of our school year to an extra that we fit in as time allowed. We are currently reading various stories of anabaptists who were martyred for their faith.
    At church we have been studying the texts in the gospels where Jesus addresses/challenges/condemns the Pharisees for their hypocrisy..and I have found it both compelling and convicting! I have been guilty far too many times of judging someone by their outward appearance or being proud that I looked “better” than they did. I too hope that a new generation of anabaptists will rise up who no longer make an idol of the outward appearance but allow scripture to be our guide. Keep up the writing!! I have book marked this page..I may even use some of your posts as a part of our Bible/history lessons.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Tina,
      Thank you for taking the time to read and for your kind words. It’s always good to hear there are others who are also praying that God will raise up a generation of Anabaptists that want to be aligned with Scripture more than tradition. Blessings!

      Like

  5. This is something I have struggled with a lot! And it hit especially close home when a gentleman from non-Mennonite background, but has regularly attended our church for a couple of years and is a believer, asked to be baptized. He is a believer but had never been baptized and as he started reading his Bible more and studying it, he became convicted that he really needed to be baptized and felt strongly that he was almost sinning by not doing so. Of course he was told that he had to go through instruction class (which he was willing to do) and that he would also need to become a member of our church. That last thing gave him pause because it meant some dress changes etc. that he wasn’t sure about.

    That’s where it got almost embarrassing for us. How were we to explain all of this Mennonite way of doing Baptism to him without sounding ridiculous? Like, “Oh sorry. You dress modestly now but it’s not good enough. Oh, and yeah, we know it says nothing about baptism being tied to church membership in the Bible, but that’s just not how we do it.” It just felt lame and confusing….both to him and us. And to this day he still isn’t baptized and my heart kind of breaks thinking about. I feel like we have let both him and God down. And it makes me really wonder how God will judge that sort of thing in eternity. Because aren’t we really kind of holding a brother back by refusing to baptize him when he longs to do so?! I have so much appreciation for our Mennonite/Anabaptist heritage, but I also feel like we have some major room for improvement in areas like this!

    Like

    • Hello,
      Thanks for reading and sharing. Unfortunately there are way too many stories like this in our circles. I think we don’t view baptism seriously enough. It should go hand in hand with repentance rather than two separate things. Pray for change and reformation!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s