There’s something special about the campfire.
I absolutely love the feeling of a campfire at the end of a successful day of hunting. I may be completely exhausted from packing meat or butchering, but it doesn’t matter. It’s extra special when I have someone to share it with, to tell stories with and laugh around the campfire. Because the success is shared and reflected upon, it is remembered for years.
I’m a little concerned about the absence of this experience in some of the churches I’ve been a part of. In some churches, a person can come, publicly profess Jesus, be baptized, shake hands at the end of a service, and then…well nothing. The expectation is that they jump into the flow of ministry at the church and that’s it!
In Acts chapter 2, following Peter’s sermon, more than three thousand souls responded to the message and believed. What happened next? They stayed in Jerusalem and remained near one another, I’m sure, celebrating the new life they had received.
Is Faith in Christ A Miracle Anymore?
Throughout the New Testament, there is a constant that is glaringly apparent. Each time Jesus performed a miracle, the people stood in awe. Some of them jumped for joy, others wept, still others stood in awe or skepticism. The miracle invoked some sort of special emotional response from almost all who witnessed it. Is the regeneration of a spiritually dead soul not a miracle anymore?
Baptism, one of the ordinances of the church, signifying the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and his righteousness being applied to us is no “shrug-off” event. Coupled with the reality that a person has been regenerated and justified before God, a profession of faith in Christ should be a matter of celebration, not just a pre-cursor to the remainder of a Sunday service.
I think churches today need to slow down and pay attention to what they’re actually doing, or not doing. God’s church is not a “conversion factory”. Baptism in the church shouldn’t be a “We’ll see if this sticks.” sort of event. I fear we’ve become so concerned with making sure “we’re doing what we’re supposed to” on the front end, that everything after evangelism has become no man’s land.
A profession of faith, and the subsequent Baptism, should be the initial opportunity for a church to pour out love on that new Christian and help them to see that they’re not just being initiated into a club. They are being welcomed into the body of Christ. We celebrate everything under the sun, why wouldn’t we spend a little more time and effort helping a new believer understand that the church loves them and is with them?
Before the Folks in the Shadowy Corner Speak Up..
Let me qualify this with the obvious. Before celebrating a profession of faith, it’s only prudent that steps be taken to assess their understanding and belief before the profession becomes public. That, of course in the church, is part of the place and responsibility of pastors and elders. Then, the fruits of the spirit should be observed as that Christian begins to grow in their faith.
Celebrating a person’s new faith in Christ does not, and should not be done in a way that violates the scripture. It should however be done in a manner that shows the new Christian that the church has made a covenant with them to nurture and help them grow along the way. This combats another epidemic that frustrates all of us, which is the lone wolf syndrome of so many American Christians.
Even though I can’t say that I understood and believed the gospel for the first time at 7 years old, something stands out dramatically about when I went forward and was baptized. The church was elated that I had done so. We had a dinner and there was singing, all because someone had come to know Jesus. It was a small rural church that didn’t see many visitors, much less many professions of faith. One thing they did well, and that many churches should take note of, was letting the new believer know that they loved them and that they were happy that they could call them brother or sister now.
Many of those little churches are dying now, just like the late night campfires of a hunting camp, but the church’s love for her groom and what he does in her midst doesn’t have to. Especially when it comes to the greatest miracle of them all; breathing new life into a dead man and making him right before a Holy God.
The next time someone makes a profession of faith in your church, if your church isn’t celebrating already, invite them to your home. Take them out for dinner. Let them know it’s all because you love them and that you want to hear their story. You might just experience a miracle in your own heart.