When it comes to baptizing, Baptists don’t mess around with a few sprinkles. We follow the example and command of Jesus. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist to mark the official beginning of His ministry. The word “baptize” in the New Testament means to dip or immerse. John dunked Jesus. At the end of His ministry, before ascending into heaven, Jesus commanded the church to make disciples, baptizing them, meaning dipping or immersing.
Baptism follows the salvation experience and is a public testimony. When a person is baptized, the person symbolically identifies with Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection. Also, scriptural baptism proclaims he or she has buried his or her old life and is rising to walk in newness of life (2 Corinthians 5:17).
As special as baptism is in the worship service, the mechanics can pose a challenge. I’ll never forget my first baptism. My candidate was a really big guy. The man basically helped this newbie preacher by squatting under the water while I leaned him back. He did an excellent limbo impersonation and I got him under, then he stood himself back up with my assistance. No baptism blooper that night!
However, most pastors can recall at least one interesting baptism. In one small north Georgia church, the old timey baptistry rested beneath the pulpit. Deacons moved the pulpit and lifted the floorboards while a husband and wife anticipated their moment. Sheets were hung over wires to form dressing areas on each side of the pool. The husband was baptized first and then made his way behind the sheets.
The wife started down the rickety stairs into the water, but the last step cracked and collapsed. She lost her balance, lunged forward past the pastor, flailing her arms wildly searching desperately for something to grab. The first item she could reach was the sheet intended to give her husband privacy while he dried off. She tore it down, exposing her shocked husband to the entire congregation, who witnessed him baring it all for the cause of Christ.
He made the split-second decision to “streak” to the baptistry and dove in headfirst, disappearing. The wife didn’t fall, but it took some time for the congregation to regain their focus on worship.
Pastor Joe McKeever recalls one church whose baptistry contained a drainpipe with a screwed-in cap for filling and was unscrewed afterwards to empty. After baptism one Sunday evening, McKeever unscrewed the pipe since he was already standing in the baptistry. Doing so saved him from wading back in later.
About the time he began his message, the congregation suddenly heard a symphony of loud sucking sounds as the last of the water gurgled down the drain. It wasn’t exactly angels singing, but it did make quite an impression.
One of my most memorable baptisms came on a beautiful fall Saturday at Jones Bridge Park in Gwinnett County. My church member requested I baptize him in the Chattahoochee River near the spot where he and his uncle used to go fishing. One day, they were fishing, and on the other side, a small crowd gathered. Andy and his uncle watched two men wearing suits and ties wade into the water. They witnessed the preacher say a few words, then immerse the man while onlookers cheered their approval.
Andy thought, “That’s where I want to get baptized.” And that’s where I baptized Andy as family members and friends looked on.
As a preacher dad, getting to baptize my four children touched me deeply, and recently, I had the privilege of baptizing my oldest grandchild, Harper.
Harper accepted Christ last summer. After a conversation with her and her mom, I felt she was ready to take the next step of baptism. After she completed the baptism class, I reached out to the pastor of the church they attend in Florida, and Pastor Mike was gracious enough to let me do the baptism.
We attended on a recent Sunday morning. After the opening song, Harper and I walked into the spacious baptism pool, and I introduced Harper to the congregation, explained the meaning of baptism, shared a challenge with her, and then performed the ordinance.
It was sweet. My voice cracked once, my heart filled with joy and together we made a memory, creating another notable ministry experience, a very special baptism.
[David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Georgia. Visit www.mcdonoughroad.org for more information on how you can visit in person or online this Sunday. Visit www.davidchancey.com to see more columns or learn about Chancey’s books. Contact him at email@example.com.]