For far too much of the time, the church world has been focused on the things a person must do correctly to worship, to be a member, to attend, or even to be saved. The list of todo’s have waxed and waned over time to change to the currents of society and the trends of the times. But in the end, it seems to me, that this has been an incredibly wrong focus.
Honestly statement here: I have always been troubled by the idea that we ask people to make 13 baptismal vows (all very good things) before we will baptize them, but if they break them after their baptism, then we don’t follow-through on them.
Wait a minute! Don’t mishear me. I’m not saying we need to start kicking out the less than perfect people. If we did that, perhaps we would have less people in our church. I’m pretty sure you would no longer have me as a pastor, or you as a member. So what am I saying?
I’m saying that baptism is not a graduation ceremony where you have met the requirements to pass with flying colors so you can be dipped in the forgiving and cleansing wave of baptism. No. Graduation ceremony it is not. Rather, a more biblical view of baptism is that it’s a line in the sand that simply says, I’m beginning a journey to walk with Jesus from this day forward. Not a graduation, but a start to a walk.
The church’s job isn’t to make a list of all the right and wrong things a person must or mustn’t do. Rather, the churches job is to put people first and help, guide, nurture, support and lead people to Jesus. Jesus can make a list for people if needed. He did it only a few times in His time here on earth. “Sell all you have and come follow me.” is one example I can think of. One thing on that list.
What I am saying about the baptismal vows is simply that there is an incongruity in that we make people vow to something before, but ignore it if they break that vow. Perhaps, we set those vows us up as a directional pointing issue and say, “This is what we believe as a church, as a people following Jesus. We will support you on this journey. You may not be here in everything yet, but we will support you going this direction, if you will walk with us.”
People first. It plays into all the rules and regulations we make in churches. COVID masks come to mind. Are we thinking our own own rights or other people first. Suits and ties, worship music, who chose that worship music, paint colors in the church, people coming to evangelism. People first.
The focus on people first doesn’t make everyone a leader in the church, it just prioritizes people over rules, people over my political persuasion, people over my idea of proper Christianity, and just let’s us minister to people rather seeking to see if they are following our list first.