I thought maybe I was done with this series of posts, as it turns out, I’m not. I had the joy of baptising a young Soldier this morning during chapel. Then, at church a couple of hours later I witnessed the baptism of 2 infants.
The Spirit spoke through me this morning to this Soldier. I don’t say that lightly or out of some false holiness, but out of humility. I told him that, “Baptism isn’t a finish line, it’s a starting line.” It wasn’t something I had thought of to tell him beforehand. I give credit to God for that flash of insight. I reflected on those words as I watched the two children being baptized a little later in the morning.
One of the weaknesses of the evangelical approach has been, ironically, the emphasis on evangelism. We do need to evangelize. But that is only part of what we are called to do. We like to think we are “great commision churches” if we focus on evangelism. But, we neglect a vital part of the commission by only working on “conversion.”
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20 emphasis added.
Make disciples. We are to be fishers of men. But our calling isn’t to just pluck them out of the lake and stick them in the live well for Jesus. We are to guide them into the transforming life that Jesus modeled and promised. Discipleship, spiritual formation, catechism. Call it what you like, we shrivel and starve spiritually without it.
Too often, the recent church in America has looked to “get them in.” Getting them in and getting them wet is just the beginning. Now we have to raise them up in the faith, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. I feel more confident that the 2 infants this morning will get that from their parents and their church. The young Soldier graduates basic training in a few short days and chances are I may never see him again. I pray that he continues to seek after God, as he has come to these past 9 weeks. I pray that he continues to have friends like the one that stood next to him this morning during his baptism that can help him grow in the faith.
Evangelism is to the church what recruiting is to the military. Important, challenging work. But that is not all there is. Soldiers know that once you arrive at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) and swear your oath of enlistment the journey is not over. It is just the beginning. Much the same is true of baptism and conversion. The Soldier still has basic training and advanced individual training to look forward to. Then they will arrive at a unit where the will start the process of learning how to live out and apply what they have learned, and start learning many other important things for their time in uniform.
It is the same way in the life of faith. Once we are baptized, whether as an infant or much older, it is the beginning. We are in. We are on on way, but we aren’t there yet. The transformation has only just begun, it is far from complete.
May we all press on to the goal that we have been called to in Christ Jesus.