This post is finally making good on a long-ago promise I read at the bottom of my previous post Christ Is Enough for Me. It is also somewhat timed appropriately because whilst the first drafting of this article was penned a week ago, the second draft/re-work in getting this article to this its final published state is the result of having now performed a second baptism – held last Sunday 31 August!
Baptism from the other side is intended to provide an insight into what it is like being on the other end of the experience of baptising a newer, fellow believer in Christ into the family of God. Similar to becoming a Cell Leader, the challenge and growth that the experience of an individual believer in walking faithfully in the pathway of God is thoroughly enriching.
It is a great privilege to be able to be God’s servant in baptising not one but two cell group members this year. When I stepped up to be a leader within my cell group in January I could not have anticipated that the year thus far would have unfolded the way it has. This year, as no doubt if you have followed my journey of blogging here, has been an incredibly humbling experience for me. I believe the period is a continuing testimony of God’s hand and His will for the Kingdom of God to be lived out here on earth as it is in heaven.
Whilst the circumstances of the two baptism could not be more different, there has been much in common. Whilst the Easter baptism had a good six weeks of preparation, starting with the thought of having it done privately and in an outdoor setting, the four of us involved had a prayer session where God spoke to us and directed us to the eventual Easter date of baptism. Our approach then, as it remains now, was to seek God and His heavenly wisdom first. Seeking God first was not just an exercise for the individuals getting baptised, but also just as important (if not more!) for myself and those of us leading and conducting the baptism. In that way, it may appear that we are setting the example, really we are all the same in submitting first and foremost to God.
In seeking God’s wisdom, the spirit within has constantly compelled me to increase my prayer life. In this most recent baptism experience, it can only be of God that this milestone for my brother in Christ follows shortly after his salvation/encounter with God event just a month of so earlier. The way God has worked within my brother’s life in reaching out to him parallels how God has also been moving within my life. Both of us have a greater sensitivity and awareness to the Holy Spirit, and again it only points to God at work within and through us. While the timeframe for this second baptism has been three weeks, or half the amount of time as the first, it has all been according to God’s timing that the opportunity arose, I quietly suggested it only to realise that my brother was also on the same wavelength and considering baptism too – and that was three weeks before the baptism. Whilst we both have been busy in our respective lives, making the time to connect regularly throughout the week and encouraging one another to keep our eyes fixed on God has nonetheless ensured that we have been preparing for the baptism.
God has also used the testimony of my brother, as a means of encouraging the entire cell group. In part, The Stand shares some of this insight. The feedback that was shared amongst the cell group in the last two days since writing The Stand was universal in the way we were all encouraged. As an additional detail from cell group that night, specific to baptism and testimony sharing, we intentionally did an exercise of hearing from God first before our brother shared his testimony. In hearing from God, we each shared what we received – a Word, an image, a feeling – recorded it down so that our brother could go away and digest it more. This was followed by the testimony being shared, culminating with our brother leading us in a second time of worship to The Stand.
At church, the event and occasion of the actual baptism is conducted such that all individuals involved are asked to arrive 45 minutes before service for a time of prayer and preparation. There is the logistics of who goes first, whether the act of immersion is a forward or backward motion. For the first baptism the decision for a forward immersion was decided by the reality that my brother was taller than me. Further, having the individual being baptised kneel inside the baptistry whilst the other individual performing the baptism is standing also allows for greater control over the situation such that there is no room for accidents or mishaps.
Like any public speaking occasion, performing the baptism is no different – calming the nerves beforehand, articulating clearly and in a medium speech pace helps the congregation follow. As described in my page on baptism, the dialogue is relatively straightforward. The total amount of time spent in the water of the baptistry is quite short; the event is over in a flash. Having reviewed the video footage taken by a friend, it was a quick affair:
Other activities that we have added to the event of baptism are church/cell group cultural things:
- Organising a cell group present and card. Since this latest baptism has transpired close to the point of salvation, I chose to make the present a Life Application Bible. New believers would normally be given a bible by the church, whereas the timing and opportunity of this baptism allowed us to improve the quality of the bible given.
- Sitting together as a group up-front as well as looking after invited friends & family members – guests to the church.
- Praying together as a group at the conclusion of the service
- Celebrating and having fellowship over a meal (lunch)
When we all gathered at the end of the service to pray, not only did our cell group gather, but also good friends from our wider cell group (prior to last year’s multiplication) also joined us, demonstrating the universal and unifying love of Christ prevalent in His church. Lunch was a similar affair, where it morphed from an initial audience of the immediate cell group with selected friends, to where we took over four whole tables in the restaurant. In part, I anticipated this and intentionally picked a venue which could accommodate such flexibility. Various people had asked up-front whether so and so could also join, and my anticipation enabled us to be inclusive, just as Jesus would have done. We even had new people join the group, including two mothers/aunties, who are known to be very willing to join in our activities.
Baptism, whilst being a personal walk of faith and obedience to Christ, is also a time for the family of God to rejoice and celebrate the birth and spiritual awakening of new believers. It is my prayer for my brothers and sisters in Christ who have experienced their physical/water baptism to also seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit according to their own relationship journey with God. In His time we can all experience His fullness of love, grace and joy.