Reflection on 337 Baptisms and the “Church”

tubSo it’s been a couple of days since the massive baptism service we had last weekend. As they were going over records, they actually had miscounted, and we baptized 337 during the “Not Ashamed” weekend services, not 335 as was previously reported. Today in staff meeting one of our pastor’s was talking about different things. He said something that surprised me.

This past Sunday looks to be be one of the lowest attended Sundays all year. Based on the report, almost 1000 people decided to skip this week. We have about 8500 people that rotate through on various schedules. Florida is a very odd place. If asked, people who come every third Sunday would probably identify themselves as a “regular” attender. According to this, we saw more people choose this week as their “off” week than we normally would.

But why would more people choose to stay away this week?

I had a conversation with one person, and they wondered if that many baptisms would be boring. I personally wondered if the day would be too much spectre, and not enough participation. (Having been through it, I can say now, it was a lot of participation) We don’t place enough emphasis on celebrating life-change. Here is a public symbol of a changed life, a key part of a Christian’s life of faith, and we see people choose to stay home.

Boring? How could any baptism be boring? How have we gotten here?

Did you know that 48% of SBC churches didn’t baptize one person last year? That 78% baptized less than 10 people? Some of the church growth books out there talk about how the population of the earth is outpacing the growth of the Church (capital “C” church). What has happened to the Church?

Do we not hold the truth, the only really important thing that matters in this life and eternity? Are we not in the business of making disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 explains that we are the ministers of the reconciliation.

God chose to use us as ambassadors, “as though God were making his appeal through us”.

Let that sink is for just a second.

Maybe people don’t want to attend a service devoted to celebrating changed lives because we know we have not really been doing a good job as an ambassador.

We celebrate 337 baptisms in one weekend because it rarely happens, but Acts 2:41 bears witness to almost 10 times that number being baptized at one time. Doesn’t the same Holy Spirit dwell in us? We saw 337 baptisms, not because that many people accepted Christ at one time, but because that many people got right with God about being baptized.

We must do better. This weekend far outpaced any predictions. But why? Why should it surprise us when God shows up, and works in the lives of our congregation? We need to be ready for God to work, we need to expect the miraculous.

And we need to be about the business of being God’s effective ambassadors to a very distracted, mediated world.

(Photo by Ken Miller)