In my previous post, I discussed the importance of teaching as it relates to discipleship. This week, in keeping with that same theme, I am going to be talking about discipleship and baptism. In the Great Commission Jesus describes his final marching orders for his disciples. As stated previously, there has been a much needed emphasis on disciple making, but in some ways we are making it to be something it is not. I used the coffee shop version of modern discipleship as my example last time to say that discipleship is more than just “doing life together” we must teach. Likewise, we must not neglect the command to baptize.
Baptism Is Required?
The words “require” and “baptism” don’t often appear in the same sentence these days. In fact, we spend so much time teaching our people that, “baptism doesn’t save you.” That we make them wonder if it is even necessary at all, and today’s generation is not going to do anything that does not have an overt purpose to it. Of course we must refute baptismal regeneration, but we must also refute the neglect of baptism. Let me put it like this, there should be no dry christians. I understand the hesitancy in using the word “require” when it comes to matters of salvation, but we should most definitely say it is required for discipleship. The Lord Jesus gives a very brief word on the way his mission will continue after His ascension, and “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit” is included in that charge. Jesus seemed to think baptizing was required for discipleship, and so should we.
The Great Decline
If you spend any time at all at denominational meetings at any level in the SBC you will hear about the decline in baptisms. While I do not appreciate the way this dilemma is presented in most cases, I do agree that the problem is one in need of addressing and correction. I am under the understanding that annual baptism numbers are the most important numbers recorded in church metrics. I believe this, because baptism is the clearest external evidence for salvation. If we are in the business of seeing the lost saved, and we better be, than we must care about these numbers.
Yes, baptisms are in decline nation wide, but we should never address this decline in terms of negativity or what I hear most often, the dooms day approach. We must use this decline as motivation to go and share the Good News of Jesus. When a denominational leader stands up on the platform and rails against the pastors who have dedicated their life to seeing more people baptized, it only discourages them all the more. We must change our approach, and who must do so in a way that encourages the pastors yet at the same time stresses the reality of the need to see more people saved.
We must get the number of baptisms up, not for the sake of the SBC, but for the sake of the Kingdom of God and the lost souls we have been called to reach. The good news about this problem is that there is job security for my line of work. I pray that my generation will experience a recommitment to evangelism, that we will take hold of this great opportunity to reach many lost souls for Christ, and that as a result the number of baptisms will be higher than ever. We must never forget that discipleship requires baptism.