Baptism’s Mandate for the Church

water-baptism2As we dive headfirst into yet another season of ministry programming, it would be good for all of us to first stop and remind ourselves of the reason why we do what we are doing, and why it is so important. At all of our churches, I don’t think we want to create and maintain programs simply for the sake of having programs. Rather, everything we do should fit a mission and emanate from a defined set of core values, because we strongly believe we want the ministry of the church to be an authentic reflection of who we are in Christ. But our ministries also hold a deeper theological connection to what we believe about the church. And we can see this especially displayed in our view of the sacrament of baptism.

Reflecting Core Values

We are a church that identifies with mission in a particular way. We hold values that provide the passion and excitement for ministry. AT Horizon, these values include such qualities as service, relationship, Reformed perspective, and transformation. The values act as guides for the particular shape of Horizon’s ministries.

And so, for example, our value of Reformed perspective informs our view of ministry, but also reflects our view of baptism. It tells us that in baptism we see God’s covenant extended down through his church. Baptism is not then an individual sacrament focusing on the one person being baptized, baptism is a corporate sacrament, which reminds us of our covenant bond together as a people of God. So the programs and ministries we do at Horizon reflect and promote this covenant “people-ness” that we share.

Our value of relationship informs the way in which we see those programs and ministries as important. When we come together for a Bible study or small group, it is not so much the content of the study material that is important. The important piece is the context of relationship in which we study and deepen our faith. I think we all realize that ay of us could sit at home and watch videos of preachers, or study our own Bibles; but what makes those things infinitely beneficial is that we choose to come together and do those things in relationship with one another. So the programs and ministries we do at Horizon reflect and promote the particular way in which our relationship connections enhance the real-life application of what we learn about God.

What Baptism Means to Us

Let’s bring this whole discussion down to what the mandate of baptism is about for the church. Baptism is not a statement of an individual’s choice for God, but rather it is a statement God is making to his collected people. But before we let go of all responsibility and fall to the position of saying baptism is only about God, maybe we should consider again what statement we are making in the sacrament of baptism.

Baptism is also about a responsibility we take upon ourselves whenever we are in the company of believers who witness the sacrament taking place. Whenever we witness a child being baptized, here’s a question that comes at the rest of us sitting in church, “Do you, the people of the Lord, promise to receive these children in love, help instruct them in the faith, and encourage and sustain them in the fellowship of believers?” Baptism reminds us that not only does God extend his faithfulness through his covenant, it also reminds the rest of us within that covenant that we have an obligation to one another.

So the programs and ministries at Horizon reflect and promote covenant as we give our time to serve one another. The ministries we work to put together for our children are not just about teaching them Bible stories or keeping them occupied while the rest of us “do church” on a Sunday morning. They are opportunities to embrace our covenant promise and engage in relationship with our children. My goal for the church’s children’s ministry is simple. Regardless of the lesson that is taught; regardless of the craft that is made; I want all parents to walk out of church on a Sunday morning with this thought: “These people really love my kids!” It’s that simple. And the single best way we have of accomplishing that goal is by presence in the classroom, in the nursery, on the playground, in the youth group room. Your commitment doesn’t need to be huge, but we all have a place and a responsibility in this covenant promise together.

till next time,
~pastor tom