I got two letters from readers in recent weeks asking about the how and when of celebrating someone coming to faith, and I found my answers being close enough that this post became a “toofer” 🙂
I have a friend and coworker who I have been praying for for several years, particularly as she went through a deep depression. A few months ago, she hit “bottom” and I think around then she started visiting churches. Since then she is reading her bible, and has started doing things like posting verses on Facebook. She recently told me she’d like to be baptized. I asked her if she believed Jesus Christ was the Son of God, if He died for her sins, if He rose again, if she believed herself to be a sinner and needed Jesus (you know, the typical questions), all of which she answered yes to. In my head I was going crazy but we were at work so it felt weird to want to scream for joy. It seems she didn’t have a “go down to the front and receive Jesus as your savior” kind of conversion but maybe more of a gradual drawing of the Holy Spirit kind of conversion and I want to get excited and do something but I don’t know what to do. How should I celebrate her becoming a Christian? – S
How exciting for your friend, and for you! Your story reminded me of how I felt when a friend confided at work that she was pregnant after trying for a long time: I wanted to dance for joy and ask a million questions – but it wasn’t the appropriate time or place to bust out some dance moves, and so the moment passed with a polite, rather than a passionate response…
The angels are certainly rejoicing in heaven over her, so I agree that some “on earth as in heaven” celebrations are in order too 🙂 There are many different ways to celebrate, but here are some suggestions for now:
* Write her a letter! Tell her the story, in writing, of how you have prayed for her over the years and how exciting it has been for you to watch her take these steps. Encourage her and tell her that even though you couldn’t show it at the time, you’re thrilled! I’m sure she will treasure hearing it from you.
* If you’re a gift giver, a bunch of flowers, or balloons, or better yet – a favorite Christian book, might be a lovely gift to make things festive and acknowledge this big thing for her. One tip on the book: give her something that has been meaningful to you, rather than something you think she might need/want. Your personal vouchsafing for the book will be precious to her, and is not in danger of coming across as preachy.
* Ask her how you can pray for her as a new believer. If she is new to the faith, maybe she has never read the Scriptures with someone before. If you’re available for something like that – maybe she might like to read through a book of the bible with you and just talk through it? She’s at the beginning of such an exciting journey, and company always makes a new road easier to navigate.
* She’s expressed interest in baptism, which is the perfect way for her to “go public” with her faith, and for you in turn to make a public celebration of it. Check in with her on how that’s going. If it will be soon – maybe that’s the right occasion to present her with the letter and a gift?
I’ll be praying for you both! What an exciting time.
I was baptized as an infant in the Catholic church as one of my parents was Catholic, but never got confirmed as I didn’t believe in the customs. In my 20s I came to a firmer faith, and as I had been baptized in infancy, the Anglican minister felt I should be confirmed rather than re-baptized. I am now at an evangelical church in the UK, where I’m told that Catholic infant baptisms carry a different meaning (in that they’re one of the things you need to do to get into heaven, like last rites). If that is the case, adult baptism apparently has a different meaning. Here’s my question: should I be re-baptized now? -Sprinkled Once
Tricky one! I would say my short answer is this: be baptized again if you want to, and if your community of faith would be supportive of it! Don’t do it because you feel you need to, or ought to – I think you have freedom in this regard.
Here’s the longer answer as to why: baptism is a symbolic, public act. It is symbolic of being publicly recognized as belonging to a community of faith, and i particular, the community of the people of God, who were purchased and adopted into God’s family by Jesus’ death and resurrection (Cool explanatory pictures on that here). Baptism is the wedding ring to the wedding ceremony. It is the certificate to adoption papers. And in your case, perhaps it would be similar to a vow-renewal ceremony.
Faithful, evangelical, Bible-believing Christians have deeply held and widely differing views on the meaning and mode of baptism, and I (for one), don’t think there is “one right answer” on this side of heaven on whether it’s better to baptize infants or adults, or both, nor on the question of how much water do you need for it to count as a baptism (just a sneeze-worth? or a good solid dunking?) There are so many faithful, wise, learned people who disagree on this issue that I think we are wise to go with the idea of a “bigger box” of answers, rather than trying to pin down one right way of doing things for everyone.
My own experience is that I was dedicated as an infant by my parents (who were not professing believers) , then came to faith and chose to be baptized (by immersion, if that matters), as a teen. I later found myself in an Anglican church where infants were baptized, by sprinkling. I was a bit of an oddity. Now I attend a Baptist church, where only those “of age” can be baptized, and it involves a Whole Lotta Water.
When our children were born, part of me really would have preferred to Baptize them, a symbolic sign of their being included in God’s covenant community (rather than a statement of their personal faith), but as it happened – we were in a church that did not baptize infants, and so we chose the way of peace: to do why our community of faith did, and so we too dedicated our children and will let them choose to be baptized if they wish.
But what if it were different? What if we’d been able to baptize them as infants? And what if they later wanted to be baptized by immersion? Or what if, like my husband, you were baptized as an adult – but only be sprinkling and not by immersion, and then you find yourself in a church where a sprinkling baptism “doesn’t count”? Would you be re-baptized then?
My counsel is the same: do it if you want to, and if it would be supported by the community around you as a celebrated public sign of your faith. I think submitting to the church you are in is important: if the public confession of faith is a significant aspect of how we understand baptism, then what the public thinks of baptism in general (and yours in particular) is significant in one’s decision making. What your church elders and pastor say are, I think, very significant in making this decision. I believe baptism should be a peace-making and celebratory thing, in keeping with the “spirit of the law”, don’t you think?
No doubt the issue of whether you belong to Jesus and the People of God was settled in eternity and has been celebrated by the angels. The question remains: do you feel the party on earth is still outstanding? If so, getting re-baptized could be a wonderfully exciting choice for you. Think of it as a “renewal of vows”, if you like 🙂 It doesn’t undo the first lot of vows, it just re-affirms how significant the relationship is.
Hope that helps.