As we walk through the list of Baptist distinctives, we come to an issue of church polity and practice. Jesus Christ entrusted the church with many things, two of which get a special spotlight (and rightly so): Believer’s Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. There’s not a lot of controversy here, but I’ve got a few questions about these…
#1 – Believer’s Baptism
I know why we baptize believers – in obedience to Christ, for identification with His death and His church, and to proclaim the gospel. I also get the picture from the New Testament that baptism symbolized rebirth, so why can’t a believer be re-baptized when he rededicates his life? What would be the issue with re-preaching the gospel or identifying again with the church if one has become distant? Why can’t a Christian be baptized again? I mentioned that idea one time to some Christian leaders and they shot it down with disdain. Their answer was, ‘Well Jesus only died on the cross once, so you should only get baptized once.’ Not only does than answer lack basic logic, but it also implies an unhealthy connection to salvation.
Furthermore, at what point did churches get so particular about ‘receiving’ the baptism from other churches? I understand that some baptisms are given under false pretense (as if it is part of salvation) or by the wrong mode (sprinkling instead of immersion), but why do we dismiss baptisms from other brethren? Is it to pad our numbers? Is it because we are that distrusting of their water districts? I truly don’t get it!
Also, why don’t we work as hard for baptisms as we do salvation decisions? Why do we compare our baptism numbers (isn’t that a little self-aggrandizing)? Some don’t, but many IFB pastors worship the numbers… or rather worship themselves through the numbers. They judge their entire lives by how many are in the pew on Sunday. If we count, we should count how many families had devotions this week, or how many people showed real patient love with a difficult person, or many hours our church spent praying for their co-workers… Those numbers are worth counting (if you’re gonna count)!
#2 – The Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper was given to the church as a sacred sacrament. It’s one of the major things that we are urged to do together that reveals the gospel. Some churches practice it once a year, others once a quarter, while others once a month. So why don’t we do it more often? I’ve know…because we don’t want it to get old / ritualistic… Right! So why do we do it exactly the same way every single time? We read the same verses and the same people pass the trays the same way. Every. Single. Time. Why? Would it be a sin to be creative with communion?
With regard to the ordinances, why -in most churches- are only ordained men allowed to participate? I have never seen anything more beautiful than a father baptizing his child or when parents lead their family in communion. Just because the church was entrusted with these doesn’t mean we get to monopolize them! Agree? (And by the way, I think foot-washing should be considered… maybe not as an ordinance, but at least practiced occasionally. Humility & soap would go a long way to clean up some of the stink in our churches!)