“I [Paul] thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius…” (1 Cor 1:14). That seems like a strange thing for Paul to write to the believers in Corinth. Why did he say that? Because Paul was rightly concerned that if he was seen as the primary “baptizer,” then the church would be tempted to look to him instead of to Jesus Christ.
Paul was convinced that Jesus was the one and only head of the church. He knew that in Christ alone were hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And he was fully aware that if his practices were out of alignment (spoke a different message) with these convictions, the church would suffer. The same is true today. For the church to thrive, what we do must communicate and reinforce what we believe.
At East Cooper Baptist Church, we believe that our mission is to “equip people to pursue Jesus Christ passionately as they impact their culture.” Our practices should support and reinforce this conviction. But do they?
Let’s consider our ocean baptisms. We have done baptisms in the ocean since early in our church’s history. And why not? It’s cool. People like it. And if Jesus was baptized in a river, why not the ocean?
But, does baptizing in the ocean help us equip our people?
There is rich teaching contained in the ordinance of baptism. Those who have repented and come to faith express their union with Christ in his death and resurrection, by being immersed in water. Going under the water is symbolic of burial and cleansing, signifying death to the old life and purification from sin.
Baptisms are also a reminder that God is at work, that his people are sharing the gospel and that he is still performing miracles by breathing life into spiritually dead men and women, boys and girls. When we baptize in our sanctuary on a Sunday morning and in front of our people, we have the opportunity to hear their story of how God pursued and rescued them. These testimonies to God’s grace teach us, encourage us, and cause our hearts to overflow in praise to God.
So, if our mission is to equip our members, where should baptisms be performed? On the beach where few people can observe them and where it is not possible to hear a testimony? No. If we want baptisms to communicate and reinforce the missions God has given us, they should take place where our entire congregation can be equipped and encouraged. That is why we plan for all of our future baptisms will take place in our sanctuary/worship center. So our people can see and celebrate. So we can be equipped to pursue Jesus Christ passionately and impact the culture.
I think Paul would agree.