The Gospel, Church Growth, and a Question on Baptism

I have a horrible habit of starting books, reading the first few chapters, and then starting another without finishing the one I started.  I am trying to turn over a new leaf, which led me to pick back up a book I started entitled The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark.  You can purchase it here.  It is an interesting look at how the Gospel and Christian community spread so quickly over the first few hundred years.The Rise of Christianity

As I have been reading, I have been reminded of a very simple principle.  That is, religious movements will continue to grow when thier members continue to form relationships with people outside of their movement.  Stark says, “For the fact is that typically people do not seek a faith; they encounter one through their ties to other people who already accept this faith…Religious movements can grow because their members continue to form new relationships with outsiders.”  Stark is simply stating that the existing networks found in our families, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. are fertile ground for the Gospel.

That may seem obvious, but we must challenge ourselves to truly see these networks as our mission field, as the opportunities that God is giving us every day to model and proclaim the message of Christ crucified, risen, and coming again.  Just a thought!

Now for a question on Baptism…and I need your help.  “In your estimation, what do you think are the reasons that keep Christ followers from following through on baptism?”  Just curious to hear your thoughts!


7 comments on “The Gospel, Church Growth, and a Question on Baptism

  1. If one is not raised in a baptist church, baptism is just not present. Sometimes when people accept Christ, they may think it is a private relationship between them and God; not something they feel the need to show the entire church. The main reason, at our church, is that testimony video that keeps people away! The video was a huge learning experience for me to have faith in God, but everyone sees it differently and not necessarily inviting.

  2. I think there is a disconnect in evangelical circles for the most part about the role and function of baptism. Though in the SBC baptism may be more prominent than in other traditions, it can tend to be viewed like Tracy said, as an individual thing. This misses the aspect of community with ones fellow believers in the local body as well as the Church universal. People often are longing to feel connected to something “larger than themselves” or something that has history, etc. Well, they are – united with Christ. But Baptism is one such expression which allows them to be reminded of that, and to publicly affirm it.

    On the other hand, perhaps the de-emphasis on baptism to distance ones self from the sacredotal traditions or baptismal regeneration? While rightly attempting to prevent incorrect views from creeping in, we’ve taken things too far?

    A question back which may help clarify:
    When discussing baptism with a believer, what is the argument you present in favor of baptism outside of Christ’s statements that we should do so? What do you feel this benefits them? What part of their Christian experience, relationship with God are they missing out on if they do not do so?

  3. I believe that many do not make the key connection around baptism being an outward expression of faith. They challenge the importance of the ritual as secondary to the receiving of faith (which is on point). However, if you look at what we are currently studying in James, we are reminded that works are a reflection and expression of saving faith – which will be present in those that have been changed by Christ. I think by reinforcing that Baptism is a critical outward expression of faith – the pushback gets less founded, and calls poeple to recognize the expression of faith that baptism is and should be valued as.

    By faith I have been called to do many things that my old self would have looked upon in disgust. Many of these things werent immediately apparent to me, but as I was reminded and instructed by God’s word and a Christian environment- those things began to look less trivial and burdensome, and more like an act of worship.

    Granted, this is just my two cents.

  4. The reason I did not go through baptism until I was in high school (though I accepted Christ when I was 6) was that I was afraid to go backwards in the water without holding my nose. Once I was told I could hold my nose, I was all for it! Sometimes it is the little things that keep you from obedience.

  5. I think that many don’t really grasp the true meaning of baptism….thus they don’t really understand how profound and beautiful it is.

  6. I believe the primary reason that people do not follow in baptism is public commitment. They see their private confession of sins and the grace imparted by Christ to be solely a personal event. In our individualistic society, this sets well and proper with no further need for public identification. We attend church not part of a congregation, but as an individual worshiping. We pray not collectively, but one-on-one, even though others are standing beside us praying. We are a member of a Bible Fellowship class, but take no active part, which would draw us out of our comfort zone. We are afraid to publicly declare or show our intentions because of perceived or genuine statements made by others judging our actions. Finally, I feel that there is too long of a lapse in time from when a person comes to salvation and is then baptized. It becomes more of a process or a procedure than it is a fulfillment of a continuing action. It is too bad that we can not act like Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch and immediately baptize.(Other situations in New Testament reveal how quickly baptism occurred after accepting Christ).

    My less than 2 cents worth.

  7. I agree with all of these eloquent thoughts, and will add with great simplicity that I believe the reasons a believer may have for not receiving baptism are simple ignorance (and I say ignorance not to judge or degrade them) of its importance, or pride that inhibits the public act of saying, “I’ve been a Christian for a long time, and only recently have I discovered the importance of baptism.” People hate to show what they feel is “immaturity” of faith once they’ve established themselves as a “strong” believer. I believe it’s the same reason we don’t confess sin to one another, make greater use of the altar, or, in this case, follow in believer’s baptism. I think that if we, as a church body, can confront the issue with great love and compassion, affirming that we want only to see the gospel fully recognized in one another, do we help aid those that may be dealing with pride into an understanding that we don’t love and respect them because they’re “strong” or “doing well” in their faith, but because the bond we have as adopted sons and daughters of Christ stretch beyond all other ties and we desire only to see one another lifted up and encouraged in Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith. I think when believers fully understand this, they will, with great excitement, confess “I have not yet been baptized, but I am ready and excited to share in this profession with all of you, that our family can grow, and our faith be proclaimed.”

    Just a thought…

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