baptize I grew up a P.K., a preacher’s kid. As a a son of a Southern Baptist pastor I observed baptisms in church from the time I was much too young to have any notion of what was going on other than somebody was being lowered into and raised up from a tank of water. I remember getting tickled when watching a lady with a bouffant’, hair teased and concreted in place with hairspray, who was lowered into the water and when she came back up she was a few inches shorter as the pile of hair became a wet stringy mess plastered close to her head. I remember friends being baptized and wondering if they would flail their arms as did happened from time to time, much to the entertaining pleasure of us kids. I remember Dad chuckling when I asked if his baptizing boots (waders) were good for fishing too. All in all this baptism thing was kind of a strange rituaI to a kid. Not as weird as if they still baptized naked what archeologists have indicated was early church practice. I also remember, though, a certain excitement that seemed to go along with baptism. In a worship service it broke up what was sometimes a monotony of songs and sermons. Baptism provided a focus on family members of the one being baptized. I remember family members standing when their child, brother, sister, mom, or dad was the one in the tank. I remember time and again seeing my dad weep as he announced special words about dying with Christ, and being raised to walk in “newness of life.” I remember him saying “I now baptize you my young brother, or sister.” Some of these “young brothers” were my buddies. Some of the “young sisters” were girls who passed me “she likes you” notes during Sunday School. Baptism was part of family in the making.

These memories and more came flooding to my mind again just a few weeks ago when I had the humbling privilege of baptizing my oldest grandson. Like my dad when he baptized me decades before, I found my voice breaking and a tear running down my cheek as I spoke those same words that had been spoken over me. This is a mark of identity. This is the sign/evidence of a new birth and a testimony to church and community. It is a proverbial big deal! Robert Webber spoke and wrote of “living into your baptism.” He spoke of a baptismal spirituality. It was appropriate in every way for baptism to be addressed as a part of worship study because this is what it is, an act of worship. In his book, Divine Embrace, Webber speaks of turning away from identity in Adam and turning to Jesus for new identity. That turning, he says, is expressed in a ritual that marks us. “Those who accepted his message were marked as his own.” (Acts 2:41)

Lost in our present day flaps over worship style (really music style), worship environments, and technology, is a far more critical set of issues, including our desperate need to make more of baptism. Lest Worship Leaders think this is a senior pastor issue, this is an every believer issue, and if you are a leader, then for certain it concerns how we lead and guide the church to worship. I want to note two aspects of baptism that I believe need elevating in worship, particularly among we evangelicals. Whether one’s doctrine teaches baptism as sacrament, covenant, or ordinance, its importance cannot be overstated. Here are two ways I believe evangelicals must make more of baptism in gathered worship.

  1. Gospel proclamation for witness to Christ during worship. This is not just a reciting of theological belief. Baptism reveals visual enactment of gospel embrace. As Webber says, “language and symbols perform.” Heightened awareness of the welcoming embrace as one of God’s own, as a new member of the family of faith, is surely essential and pregnant with powerful witness to others. Songs sung, scriptures read, prayers prayed, life testimonies given that lead up to this moment of visual outward sign displaying an inward reality” deserves undivided attention. Even unbelieving family members who have come to “observe” are often more susceptible to the Holy Spirit’s urging during these moments of Gospel on Display than perhaps they have ever been. The new identity is to be hailed with similar gusto as when we pronounce the birth of a new child into our biological family. I pass by a Church of Christ on my way to work that uses its marquee to announce the celebration of baptism in its church family. It states name of the one being baptized, announcing that to the outside world. I sure believe that marquee is stronger witness than a lame spiritualized euphemism could ever be. I love the idea of trumpeting baptism to all who drive by. I read the name and utter a prayer of thanks.
  1. Celebrate baptism as a unifying force for the church body. Baptism is a common identity among fellow believers and serves as a reminder of our common sinfulness, our new life, and need for ongoing renewal. Let me say again that songs, scripture readings, prayers, sermon themes, and testimonies can well serve to remind us of our baptism, reiterate to all our shared identifying mark called baptism. Churches would do well to consider how a baptism of a new believer is handled and celebrated, but also to perhaps consider a “Remember Your Baptism” service in which special focus is given to recalling our baptism, and professing renewed commitment to living into our baptism. Using stations for touching water (in a bowl perhaps) and/or other means of interactive confession and testimony hold great prospect for worship enhancement. In formal or informal ways worshipers could speak to one another to remind and remember and testify, “I have turned from old ways. I have united with Christ.”

The theological richness of water is undeniable. Baptism gives opportunity to remind worshipers.

Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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