To me, baptizing people is one of the best parts about being a pastor. It is such a beautiful outward representation of the amazing inwardly reality that the person has died to their old, sinful nature and have been raised to live a new life in Christ. It is also an outstanding witness to the person’s family and friends as they get to see one they love so dear make a committment to follow the Savior.
And if I wanted to make a lot of money off of it, I definitely could.
In our church, we baptize by immersion–taking the person all the way down into the water and bringing him/her back up. When I baptize people I get into the baptistery with them, place one hand on their back and one hand on their hands that are clasped in front of them, lower them back into the water, and bring them back up.
Before each baptism I have at least one person offer me money to hold their loved one under water a little longer than normal. I know that they are joking; at least I hope that they are. I hope I don’t look like the kind of pastor that would take a bribe–my hair isn’t that greasy.
There are some people who get really nervous about being baptized because they are afraid I might drop them. This hasn’t happened–yet. But I did almost drown a guy once. It wasn’t my finest moment.
His name is Woody and he was skinny. Real Skinny. Almost see-through. He should have been easy to handle, but he violated one of the cardinal rules of baptism. As I was taking him down into the water, he became as stiff and as rigid as a legalist on a cold day. He refused to let me take him under easily. I pushed down and he fought back. I’m 6’7” and 300 lbs and he was 6’1” and virtually weightless, but it was the toughest baptism I have ever tried to do.
As I brought him back up, though, I noticed a major problem. The top of his head was still dry. DRY! He was half-way out of the water. I had to make a quick decision.
I looked at him, said-“That’s not good enough,” and pushed him back under. I knew from the kicking and splashing that he didn’t like it very much, but what was I supposed to do? Let him get away with a partial baptism!?!? Not on my watch.
When I finally lifted him out of the water and he was able to catch his breath, he told me that I had almost drowned him. I told him that it was his own fault for stiffening up on me. He was not pleased with that explanation, but no charges were filed. Hopefully we are past the statute of limitations for aggravated baptizing.
This is an example of my belief that if I am doing something in service to God I should do everything in my power to do it correctly. I’m not saying that I always succeed, but that is my goal. Sadly, I don’t think that is the goal of every professing follower of Jesus.
Christians are notorious for having spurts of commitment followed by long periods of apathy. We care deeply about giving our all to God on our journey for a while and then grow weary when potholes appear in the road. We might continue to serve when we have run out of steam, but without much joy and gusto.
The problem may be that we see our lives more as a sprint than a marathon. Our lack of endurance is glaring compared to what we say we believe. We declare Christ and following him to be the most important things in our lives and then fail to keep going when the tough times come.
Marathons are long. Marathons are tough. Marathons require people who are sold-out in their commitment to finish.
Christ deserves that type of commitment from his followers. He deserves people who will do whatever it takes to serve him with gladness, dedication, and attention to detail.
I serve the King and my service should reflect how much I love him, even if I almost drown some people in the process.
(What’s the funniest thing you have witnessed during a baptism? What do you think causes a lack of dedication?)