FIRST-PERSON: Just add water
PENSACOLA, Fla. (BP) -- Last Sunday was an awesome day. Water was involved.
For weeks, our pastor at Olive Baptist in Pensacola had announced the plan. New believers, and even long-time Christians who'd not yet been baptized, would be invited to make a public decision for Christ, and would be baptized during the same worship service. More than 40 people, mostly adults, were baptized. It was a joyful, tearful, thrilling celebration.
That same afternoon, I was at Pensacola Beach with my family. A nearby crowd was cheering and clapping, so I strolled down the beach to see what was happening. It was a baptism. Pensacola's Hillcrest Baptist baptized more than 30 youth and adults right there in the Gulf (plus 21 more in their morning worship.) What a glorious day!
So what is the correct time and place for the baptism of new believers? It depends on the church.
Some churches pre-schedule weekly, monthly or quarterly baptisms; others baptize whenever a person accepts Christ. Many plan baptisms after youth camp or outreach events. Some churches have a recurring class for those interested in baptism, with online registration for the class and baptism. They may baptize Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, at the beginning or end of worship, or as an entire worship service. Any time is a great time for baptism.
A church's baptismal service may be reverently quiet, or joyfully celebratory. Some baptize in robes; others print special t-shirts for the occasion.
Baptistery facilities vary from simple to ornate. I've seen baptisteries located at the front, the side, and in the back of the worship center. In Germany, we watched as a trap door on the platform was removed to reveal the baptistery. Some churches in the South have outdoor baptisteries, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's new worship center has a gorgeous baptistery in its spacious entry foyer.
An Indiana church gathers for summer baptisms at the river next to the church. A church plant baptizes in a nearby swimming pool. An apartment church baptizes in a hot tub. During our former church's worship center renovation, we used a horse trough in the middle of the gym. In that unique setting, God blessed with a record number of baptisms.
I worshipped with a Michigan church plant whose rented site was in a public park. As they baptized in a small lake there, many curious passersby stopped to watch, including a little dog that paddled out, circling the baptismal party!
Whether your church baptizes in the baptistery or the ocean, in robes or t-shirts, there's nothing more thrilling than seeing new believers follow Christ. "Look, there's water! What would keep me from being baptized?" (Acts 8:36)