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. . . is somewhat inevitable in the customer-driven church. Isn’t it?

This was in a recent email newsletter sent by a church from my past:

“While you only need to be baptized once, if you’d like to reaffirm your commitment to God we encourage you to participate in baptism again.”

This church, which I resigned from several years ago with resolve but regrets, is still near and dear to my heart, but this is, frankly, one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen in an invitation. It doesn’t even make sense. (But you don’t need me to tell you that.) You only need to do it once. But if you want to reaffirm, you should do it again. I was not surprised to read this, but greatly saddened.

Today I saw on Twitter someone announcing that hundreds of requests for baptism were coming in . . . for this Sunday.

I think baptizing hundreds of people is great. What a blessing! God grant me the blessing of baptizing hundreds in my lifetime, let alone one Sunday!
But while I don’t see baptism classes or extensive counseling in the Scriptures precipitating baptism, and while there is much spiritually to admire in so-called “spontaneous baptisms,” I don’t feel it’s being inordinately cynical to wonder how even a megachurch will sort through the hundreds of needs attendant in hundreds of baptism requests. Not all of those people will really need to be baptized. But will the church do its due diligence in figuring that out?

A blogger shared this year that he was baptized for the sixth time. Or maybe it was the seventh. (I forget, but it was more than four.) This time, I remember him saying, it was “for hope.” I wonder if “faith” and “love” were already covered in previous dunkings.

Last year a young man approached me about re-baptism. I knew I was going to have to be tender with him when his reasoning began, “I’ve been listening to a lot of praise and worship music lately . . .”
He was a believer and had been baptized, and I explained to him he did not need to be re-baptized. I love this guy, which was why I wouldn’t baptize him. I didn’t want to reinforce the idea that his faith was contingent upon his feelings. The sacrament of baptism is not seasonal. Christ died and rose once.

I have re-baptized candidates when by conscience and conviction they do not believe their first baptism was valid, typically because they are now credo-baptists but were born into either a paedo-baptizing tradition, whether Catholic or Protestant. But I counsel substantively with them beforehand. I generally try to convince them they don’t need it. Baptism is not “re-dedication,” which my Baptist heritage is very fond of.

This new movement of mass baptisms, if it is a move of the Lord, is wonderful. Time will tell if the number of professing Christians in the West is truly rising, if the fruit of these churches reporting hundreds of baptisms on any given Sunday are producing growing disciples. But it is not out of order to have grave concerns about the way the baptisms are offered, taught, and administered. Precisely because people’s hearts are precious. A lot of the mass baptism hoopla does look like re-dedication turned to eleven. It makes for good press, good buzz. But I don’t know if it makes for good baptisms. Or solid believers.

I think — I think — the good press of hundreds and thousands of baptisms solicited in this manner is part of what makes the un-clued-in think everything’s hunky dory in the evangelical church. I will not rejoice to be right about this.

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