Baptism: Going Public

There are as many methods of, rules for, and beliefs about baptism as there are churches in town. So organizationally, we’ve focused it down to one definition with two non-negotiable pieces.

We think baptism is the public declaration of a personal decision. And we’ve organized our process for baptizing people around those two factors.

First, we think baptism follows the personal decision to follow Christ. The historical context and the way baptism is talked about in Scripture teach us that it’s the next step for someone who decides to identify with and follow Jesus.

Second, it’s about going public with that decision. Here’s what that looks like on a Sunday morning in our churches.

For us, going public with your faith has always meant making a video testimonial that is shown before your baptism during a Sunday service. (Watch or download audio of Andy’s “Going Public” sermon to hear about the wins of doing it this way.) But we’ve recently taken a second look at this and it’s led us to do some experimenting.

In an age of social media, streaming live video, and a completely connected world, “going public” doesn’t have the same constraints it did twenty years ago. You could now broadcast your baptism on Facebook Live to friends all over the world! This new reality reminded us what Andy has said before: “we date the model and marry the mission.” Was it time for us to rethink the model we were using to accomplish our mission?

Well, yes. And no. We are primarily committed to helping people make a public declaration of their personal decision. A video testimonial still accomplishes this (with incredible fringe benefits for the rest of us who get to experience it during Sunday services). We’re still celebrating baptisms like this (and still getting emotional from our seat in the tenth row back).

But we’re expanding the options and trying to come alongside people who want to “go public” in a different way. Maybe someone wants to host a backyard barbecue, share her story, and get baptized in the swimming pool. Maybe at the beach in front of all of his family and friends. On a mission trip. In front of the high school small group she leads. At our church on a Friday night, streamed online to everyone he knows . . .

We’re now trying to partner with, support, and celebrate folks who have a fresh way of thinking about their public declaration. We have lots of details to work out in the coming months, but we hope expanding our model just a bit helps us even more successfully accomplish the mission of publicly sharing such a monumental personal decision

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