Monday, August 4, 2008

Some People Cry At Weddings - I Cry At Baptisms

I really do. Maybe it’s the symbolism of new life. Maybe it’s the joy of watching people publicly acknowledge their faith in Christ. Maybe it’s the tie to the universal church. Maybe it’s singing “Amazing Grace” afterwards. It’s probably a combination of all four.

I feel the same way about communion. It’s amazing to participate in an ancient practice that not only helps us remember Christ’s sacrifice, but also connects us with other Christians.

I love the solidarity fostered by baptism and communion. Yet some Christians are not allowed to participate because they either haven’t completed or do not meet various requirements such as classes, church membership, pastoral interviews, or even age. The process of getting baptized or taking communion has become a bit more complicated than simply finding a body of water and saying, “What prevents me from being baptized?” or showing up and eating together.

I believe that we need to observe baptism and communion in a worthy manner. But if someone has professed faith in Christ as Savior and Lord, I wonder if it’s the church’s job to determine whether or not that faith is legitimate before they allow him or her to participate. Which leads to my question: Should churches demand any qualifications for baptism or communion other than faith in Christ?

I see several benefits to requiring classes, interviews, confirmation and such:

1. If people don’t understand the significance behind baptism and communion, both practices run the risk of becoming meaningless rituals.
2. Allowing anyone who says they’re a Christian to participate, even if they’ve shown no fruit in their lives, could make baptism and communion seem trite.
3. Kids may desire to get baptized or take communion because they want to be like older siblings, think it looks fun, or even just want a snack. It’s important that they understand the meaning of these practices before they are allowed to participate.

However, these requirements also present some problems:

1. There’s no biblical precedent for individual churches requiring qualifications for baptism or communion other than professing faith in Christ.
2. These qualifications can prevent Christians from participating in the practices they are commanded to observe.
3. Some qualifications aimed at kids assume that a specific process is always a better judge of a child’s readiness for baptism or communion than the parent. It seems wrong to set an age requirement that keeps a seven year old from being baptized, even when that child’s parents know she is a Christian.

So what do you all think? Are confirmation classes, pastoral interviews and age requirements necessary in order to observe baptism and communion in a worthy way? Or should churches allow anyone who professes faith in Christ to participate and leave unworthy practice between the individual and God? I’m currently leaning towards the latter, given the lack of biblical support for qualifications outside of salvation. And if a five year old wants to be baptized and his parents believe he is a Christian and understands what he’s doing, I think it would be unbiblical to prevent him from participating.

But that’s just my opinion. Take it with a grain of salt (or as my dad says, a pillar of salt.) And let me know your thoughts.

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