Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Bad Baptism?

The opening chapter of A Search of What Makes Sense: Finding Faith gave me much to think about as a youth minister. McLaren, as do many others, contends that everyone has faith including an atheist. You either have good faith, bad faith, or a “leap of faith.” His description of bad faith connected with my belief that baptizing students to soon is unbiblical and unhealthy. According to McLaren, bad faith… (The additional comments are mine as it relates to youth ministry.)

…is based on pressure and coercion
. In our desire to see young people embrace faith, it is possible that some are pressured into the baptistery by their parents, grandparents, and spiritual mentors? I am confident that this is unintentional but I belief it is a legitimate factor.

…is the result of social or psychological need for belonging. Most the students I have baptized are in their early stages of adolescences; whose craving to belonging to anything may surpass the desire to follow Christ. Have you noticed that amount of attention a kid gets after a baptism? People wait in line to shake their hand or give a hug. Some parents even through parties. Maybe they say yes to being baptized because of the attention they will receive.

…appeals to self-interest and base motives. The fear of hell is often a leading contributor for a student to “make a decision for Christ.” Baptism is often taught as a theological loop hole to avoid hell. Bottom line…”I want to be baptized so I don’t go to hell.” That’s not a commitment to Jesus Christ. apathetic. Is there a better word that describes the faith of so many Christians? Apathetic is defined as: having or showing little or no emotion and not interested or concerned; indifferent or unresponsive. Sadly to say, this describes most of my baptized students. The biblical example of baptism assumes a change has take place a person’s life. Though I believe that it can have that same effect today, most people do not become passionate intentional followers of Christ until later on in life, well past baptism.

…is a step backward. “Better safe than sorry” is the term I have often heard (and makes me sick to my stomach as to what that actually means.) Could a premature baptism do harm? Is there such a thing as a bad baptism for a teenager? That’s a question I would bet few Christian Church leaders have never asked! I can think of three disadvantages off the top of my head: a false assurance of salvation (to all parties involved), a nonexistent praxis of faith, and unrealistic expectations of a “Christian” kid that who is not really a follower of Jesus.

These are compelling thoughts that I believe more youth ministers should talk about. I hope someone who reads this will leave a comment and tell me what they agree with but more importantly…what they don’t agree. These thoughts could have major implication on what we do as youth ministers.

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