Andrew White is pastor of St. George’s Church in Baghdad, Iraq. The church has been under siege for over a decade. Church members are killed frequently, 93 in one year alone. The threat is particularly great for those who convert to Christianity from Islam and are baptized. In one year White baptized 13 adults, each secretly, 11 of whom were dead within a week. He always warns them of the danger of baptism, but they want to follow Jesus and eagerly share their newfound joy. White says, “Christians in Iraq always practice their faith.… Our people refuse to deny the practice of their faith” (Faith Under Fire).
Baptism is a very big deal. It marks the beginning of the public life of a Christian. It is the act by which we affirm the Gospel of Jesus Christ and identify with His people. Clearly, the world sees baptism as a defining event, an act that threatens family and community cohesion. Baptism is viewed as dangerous.
It might surprise you that many unbelievers in the Northwest regard baptism as a “big deal.” One Northwest pastor said that 95 percent of the people who come to him needing Jesus address the issue by saying, “I want to talk about being baptized.” They do so because water baptism is the defining act whereby a person commits publically to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
Is baptism a big deal for you and your church? I want to suggest several things you can do to make baptism the celebration and evangelistic opportunity that it should be for your church.
First, meet with every baptismal candidate and help them make a list of people they want to invite to their baptism. Obviously you want to explain to them the meaning of their baptism, but don’t neglect to help them identify the people they know who need Jesus.
Second, provide them with “baptism invitation cards” that they can send to friends and family (the church could even mail the cards for them). Your church can order invitation cards from the NWBC at no charge. Your Cooperative Program (CP) contributions have already purchased your invitation cards.
Third, share the gospel in each baptism service and share the testimonies of each person baptized. You might want to videotape the testimonies in advance. But allowing the church and guests to hear the gospel personalized through testimony is powerful.
Fourth, the worship service should celebrate Jesus and what He has done for us. Choose gospel music appropriate to such a service. And remember, unchurched guests do not know our new songs. This is a good time to dust-off some classic gospel hymns with which they might be better acquainted.
Fifth, pray personally for each baptism candidate by name. They will remember this day for the rest of their lives, as will their families. The service should be very personal and gospel centered.
Sixth, present each candidate with a baptism certificate and with a quality Bible. You can order baptism certificates through the NWBC without charge as your CP giving has already purchased these. You can also order new believers books for each person, also purchased through your CP.
A baptism service can be a great evangelistic opportunity for your church. It should be a celebration start to finish. But also remember that baptism is serious. It is dangerous. It is an act pregnant with deep and profound meaning, something for which we would give our very lives. Many have and are giving their lives for Jesus. Pray for the persecuted. Rescue the perishing. Jesus is merciful. Jesus will save.