In my other WordPress blog, I did a history of my spirituality and church going activities.  That series was a productive inventory of where I have been in an attempt to see where I needed to go.  Spiritually speaking, there is always some new frontier for personal growth as a person learns about areas the need to be cleared away and cleaned up in order to move on.


This new church is firmly planted and grounded within all of the history, theology and traditions surrounding Rick Warren’s Saddleback church.  They use his materials in order to promote their leadership training.  They use his small group model in order to expand and build the relationship roots of the congregation.  So perhaps I’ll name this new church Saddleback East.  Even before I looked at their material, I could see this pastor was a sort of junior Rick Warren wannabe. 


He and his fellow pastors are now on the march towards a major building campaign.  He has preached a series of sermons on money and material possessions.  The last couple of Sundays he has enjoined the congregants to give sacrificially towards a new building fund for the next 40 months.  And I’m having some misgivings.


He went on throughout his message about how this campaign was not about the money.  It was not about the building.  It was about winning souls to Christ.  And really and truly, I was okay with that.  He went on and on and on.  For an hour he went on.  Then he wanted to on some more.  My butt was getting sore.  This is the thing about a second service is that this guy will use it as a license to go on longer.   And he did.  During the early service, he is limited because he has to clear a building and parking lot for the second. 


I was at this second service as it was when Arwyn was scheduled for her baptism. 


Baptism.  There is much to be said about this subject.  Some see it as purely symbolic, some see it as an act of salvation and some see it as an act of obedience.  In pretty much every case, it is seen as something special and unique.  Just about every denomination and sect recognizes it as a singular thing not unlike a wedding ceremony.  This is opposed to something like communion where we are enjoined to do it often.  And I did see some really special events.  There was the father baptizing his two adopted daughters, one who had special needs.  There was the middle school teacher baptizing one of his young students.  And then there was the senor pastor, Rick Junior, who baptized Arwyn. 


The issue that I have is that this whole affair felt very rushed.  It was done at the very end at about 12:45 when the congregation was already tired and hungry.  There wasn’t enough of a big deal made about it, in my opinion.  The offering (which was done much earlier) took more time than the baptism.  I felt that the pastor missed the greatest opportunity to drive his message home by not weaving these moments into his sermon.  There is no single thing he could deliver from his mouth that would not be eclipsed by the testimony observed in those people being obedient in faith and exercising it by going under the water.  They don’t do these things every week or even every month.  So it was a rare opportunity, and I felt like he dropped the ball. 


If I had known it would have been like this, I would have tried to convince Arwyn to do it within a small group among those that knew and cared about her the most.  The number that was at my baptism was far smaller, but at least everyone was there because they wanted to be.  I was allowed to deliver my testimony and it was a special experience. 


I haven’t said much to Arwyn about it, except I did say that I thought the pastor sort of treated it as an afterthought.  But it still vexes me.  It seems hypocritical to go on and on about how it is not about the money or the building, but then watch as the guy spends all of his time talking about the money and the building.  But that’s just me. Arwyn is good with it, so that’s what is important.  I suppose I could find anything wrong if I looked hard enough.



5 Responses to Baptism

  1. Holy Visile says:

    What now, you joined a cult?

  2. FTN says:

    “Digger Jones: A Purpose-Driven Blog.”

    Ha. Sorry, just me trying to be funny.

    I understand your apprehension about this. (I’d get apprehensive too, if the pastor was preaching that long every week.) Building campaigns are the most difficult on people new to a church, because it’s obviously not a popular thing to do. Especially if you haven’t been there for most of the growth. I’ve been through massive campaigns in the past, and I’m sure I will again. Yes, I understand the need for money, and even the need to preach on it, as it is a Biblical issue that many Christians gloss over. But I feel your pain about the baptism issue as well.

    I grew up in a small church where baptisms were “pre-planned.” I was baptized the same week as my older brother, and it was more of a big deal. Baptisms only happened every couple of months or so, because it was a small church. Now, I go to a larger church where people are baptized on the spot if they come forward, towards the end of services, like you described with Arwyn. It’s still a special moment, and people still clap and get teary-eyed. But it’s a quick thing that DOES sometimes feel rushed. And there’s no personal testimony.

    Your background is more steeped in tradition than Arwyn’s, apparently. So what did she think about the baptism? Had she never been baptized previously, or was this a “redip”?

  3. aphron says:

    Since we share a our faith journey in the Methodist Church, going to that kind of service would be an adjustment. I’d agree that baptizing an adult should be a bigger deal. Methodists either baptize as birth or upon completion of Confirmation, so we don’t see that many adult baptisms. Most of us come to Jesus as pre-teen or teens, so I would have thought that coming to the Faith as an adult would be a bigger deal. I guess the preacher was tired from preaching that long.

    Building campaigns are a strain on the church. Preachers tell the congregation that the building/addition is needed and prod the people into giving. They give. Then the giving towards the general fund decreases. They are told to not forget about the day-to-day needs of the church. Repeat. I would have a problem with a pastor that talked non-stop about needing funds for a building that long, too. After a while it stops being preaching/teaching and starts being a lecture.

  4. xi summit says:

    It’s always interesting to know how different people and different denominations handle their beliefs. After reading this account I was prompted to re-read about Jesus’ Baptism and found that, beyond John’s declaring that Jesus would take away the sins of the world and the Holy Spirit descending there really did not seem to be much to it. Oh, I suppose the Holy Sprirt descending is fuss enough but the point is that the ceremony itself was John intorudcing Jesus and the dunking him (sorry if that sounds irreverent, but it’s basically factual).

    I also was introduced by the Pastor as I entered the water, he then read my ‘favorite’ verse (picked one for him, I don’t particularly play favorites) and I gave my testimony. Then it was dunk and off with ya! A song and on to the next one.

    So I suppose I, personally, would have no problem with how they performed Arwyn’s Baptism if I knew that they had at least chatted enough before hand to know she knew what it meant and that she was sincere. But then, I’m not you so ignore as appropriate …

  5. xi summit says:

    Now about the Church building thing, for 2 decades our church was obsessed with constant building expansion and enhancement projects to the point that it had a special Building Fund established that they tracked on a monthly basis and implored people to ‘fix it’ if the leadership felt there was not a proper percentage of tithe going to that fund. Honestly, it was s waste of time and resources. Finally a few of us on the board pushed and got that fund removed and convinced the Pastor to be quiet about the Building Fund for a year. Giving went up significantly that year and remain at a higher level to this day.

    There are currently 2 churches that are hot on the building monies appeals right now. The building monies are coming in but the churches themselves are struggling much like we were in the days when it was a priority.

    Now, do I believe preaching, etc, about giving is bad? No, Jesus spent a great deal of time talking about money, giving, and greed so we should do likewise. Note, however, that never once did he mention the building fund! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: