Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Baptized into?

A very good friend told me he is excited about doing a baptism. Baptisms are always exciting for pastors. They indicate a sign of serious commitment to Jesus and the willingness to "go public" with personal faith. Only this friend is a camp speaker and is offering baptism in the context of a camp setting. My question is this; into what kind of community is this believer being baptized? Where is the church? Where is the on-going nurturing and discipling community after the camp setting goes away?
Since moving to California, I have heard several stories of individual Christians leading a person to Christ and then going out and baptizing them in a private and intimate sort of setting; no church, no fellowship, no pastors. Is this radicalized individual faith like the Ethiopian Eunuch who Peter baptized or is it a critique on the church that has been too lax in evangelism? Camps, retreats, and conferences have done the evangelism that the church should be doing, that I should be doing. The institutional church has long given up aggressive evangelism and outsourced that task for Bible Camps around the country and great gatherings like CHIC (a national Covenant gathering of high schoolers every 3 years). If we (the local church) have not being doing the job, should we have the right to complain (or at least raise our eyebrows) when individual Christian leaders go off and baptize people outside of the context of the church, or is that context actually the church (where 2 or 3 are gathered) as a substitute for the organized institution?
What does the emerging church do to traditional understanding of the sacraments? There seems to be a whole-sale ignoring of I Corinthians 12 in favor of immediate spiritual gratification. There is no catechumenate, no preparatory period, no examination, just a decision and a baptism. My fear is that this process will yield poor churchmanship, poor body-life behavior over the long haul.
Maybe a better process would be for camps and retreats to more intentionally partner with home churches and connect new believers in to fellowship communities, into which they can then be baptized. Just a thought.


At 11:59 PM , Blogger Isaac Johnson said...

Baptism or Confirmation?

I consider the two very seperate things.

For instance, infant baptisms are mostly about the parent's and congregations covenant to raise the child right. Adolescent baptism can be tied to confirmation - acceptance of a pledge and joining the church. Adult baptism, and i've seen this to be true in a Catholic setting especially, is a deeply profound statement and often ties in some amount of "washing away" ones past.

So baptism, by the point in life the partaker is in, means vastly different things.

Confirmation, or Inquires Class for Church Membership, is a very focused path on understanding and accpeting the doctorine of the local church. Confirmation, as the term suggests, incorporates a confirmation of ones beliefs.

In this same vane, I think a "camp" baptism can be very real but it is not a substitute for the confirmation, communion/Communion, support, teaching, and guidance of the church.

At 12:13 AM , Blogger Lukester said...

interesting thoughts. Somewhat ironic that I wrote my senior paper on the disconnection I was finding troubling between the local church and the camping ministries I had been part of. There was and I would imagine a continuation of this still today. One factor I did not get much into was the seeming competition between the two. The same can be seen with the parachurch ministries of Younglife and campus life... What is the priority, what ways can we better partner, what ways can we better serve? These questions are important.

At 2:33 PM , Blogger Ted Gossard said...

I really think baptism should occur in a church setting. The cases sited, I think are exceptional and maybe in places in which the gospel was initially being preached or had not been preached long.

I agree that there does need to be a return to some sort of catechumenate structure. At least we need to think through this better.

The more "charismatic" churches may see this as not needed because of the work of the Spirit, but good instruction is always important for everyone one of us, and when lacking, I think does become evident.


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