March - April 2016

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Dear Perky,

I belong to a small congregation that meets in a nearby strip mall. We are a young group, but we really love the Lord and want to serve Him however we can.

The topic of baptism came up recently in our Sunday school class, and it wasn’t long before the discussion turned to types of baptism, and that’s when the fireworks began. It seems a few of our members migrated to us from traditions that say baptism saves us and that immersion is the only method God likes. Another couple came from a denomination that sprinkles, so they added their thoughts to the debate.

Some (including myself) left the class with more questions than answers. I’m sure you and Pastor Buck have dealt with these matters before. Can you help?

High and Dry in Dalton

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Dear High and Dry,

Oh, my! It sounds like your class kicked a hornet’s nest, but don’t despair, we can figure this out.

While there are groups of Christians that like to limit the type of baptism that is acceptable to God, our denomination is not one of them. When Buck baptizes candidates, he reminds them that the act of baptism does not save them. Salvation is the work of God. He then goes on to describe baptism as an outward symbol of an inward act. In other words, we are saved when we accept God’s call to repent of our sins and receive His forgiveness and salvation (the inward act). In being baptized, we serve as witnesses to others that we have died to sin and been reborn to new life in Christ. (That’s pretty good theology for an old preacher’s wife, heh?)

We don’t have an example of Jesus baptizing anyone in the Bible, although He did forgive some of their sins and sent them on their way. However, I think it’s important that Christians be baptized after they accept the Lord. Why? Well, because Jesus said to: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." (Matthew 28:19 NIV).

As far as the method of baptism goes, as Nazarenes, we consider sprinkling, pouring, or immersion acceptable. In other words, we can sprinkle, pour, or dunk—take your pick.

Dunking, however, can be tricky. One time, Buck was standing in the font ready to baptize Brother Arlo Jenkins. In an effort to be better heard, he reached up to adjust the gooseneck microphone that stretched just over the edge of the baptistry. As he took hold of the mic, Buck began uttering sounds I had never heard from his lips. He waved his arms, shook, contorted his face, and jumped up and down.

Buck’s display was not lost on Sister Elowayne Ledbetter, who was sitting a few rows in front of me. (She had come to us from a Pentecostal church a few years earlier.) As Buck writhed and quivered, Sister Elowayne jumped up, waved her hanky, and shouted, “Praise God, he’s got the gift!”

At that point, Lester Jenkins, who operated the sound system for our little church, realized what was happening and pulled the jack to Buck’s microphone from the control board. Buck didn’t have any “gift,” he had simply completed an electrical circuit.

Fortunately, Buck wasn’t seriously injured, but for a couple of years after the experience, his preferred method of baptism was sprinkling.

I hope this helps. Jesus wasn’t a legalist, and He didn’t care much for those who were. Over the years, I’ve learned I have more influence on others for Christ by the way I live my life than by arguments over the topic of baptism.

Love, Perky

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