Friday, September 10, 2004

considered conversions and baptism

chris monroe writes,

The room is quiet, except for wordless music softly playing in the background. The man up front has asked us to bow our heads and close our eyes.

"If you would like to receive Christ," he begins, "just raise your hand." The awkward silence continues.

"I see your hand... and I see your hand... and yours..." he says before continuing, "Now, I'd like you to pray and repeat after me..."

Something like this has been the reality for countless thousands of Evangelical Christians over the past 50-some years. The raising of a hand; the repeating of a prayer; the explanation of a new-found faith.

But things are beginning to change within Evangelical churches -- increasing numbers of pastors and leaders are teaching that baptism rather than a raised hand or a repeated prayer is the true sign of faith -- the true sign of decision.

"And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you--not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" - 1 Peter 3:21 (NRSV)

An appeal to God...
Could it be that we were never meant to separate our "asking Christ into our lives" from the act of baptism?

I think Chris is nearly right if not spot on. If you read Acts it becomes apparent that very soon after you decided to follow Jesus, you got wet. This, I believe, is why so many confuse baptism as being a requirement of salvation in the same way some in the Southern US might confuse the raising of the hand on verse 4,984 of "Just as I am" as a requirement of salvation.

1 comment:

Steve K. said...

It's funny that you mention "Just As I Am." That's basically Billy Graham's theme song, and Billy's probably one of the main culprits of the "raise your hand, pray this prayer" style of evangelism. But it's interesting to note that Billy is very pro-baptism; he just made a decision early on in his ministry to leave baptism up to the local church. He explains more here:

I personally was baptized in a coffin on the shores of Lake Calhoun in Uptown Minneapolis by Mark Johnson, the director of Steiger Minneapolis ( My wife was baptized by the pastor of the campus ministry we attended ( which grew out of the Christian Church tradition which holds very strongly to baptism (and weekly communion, among other things).

I hope Chris is right about this move away from "pray this prayer," to the more biblical "be baptized" approach. And I hope it's not just an effort to meet a Southern Baptist quota (