I do a fair few Baptisms, 6 already this year, and most of the people attend are not church goers. It’s lead to all kinds of interesting conversations before or after a service, but there is one thing that I seem to hear quite regularly and it makes me wonder.
(I should note that, having a little heritage listed church in our parish, too small to hold our normal church services in on Sunday, most of the baptisms we get are “private baptisms”, where the family are keen to have it held in that building and therefore the congregation is just made up of the friends & family. It’s a battle for me in some regards, because I think it sort of defeats the purpose (or at least one purpose) of baptism to have one that doesn’t have the Church family there for it!)
So I’m there after the service, standing at the entrance/exit, saying G’day to people as they head out, and on, gosh, 30 or more occasions over the last couple of years, I’ve had people say to me:
“That was really nice. You made it all relevant.”
But what does that mean? I think they could mean one of one things?
- The day-dream possibility is that they have heard the gospel, and as we gather together to celebrate a baptism, it all makes a little more sense than it has before. They’ve come to see that Baptism into the church isn’t an anachronistic habit that we can’t quite let go of, but it is a powerful statement about relating to the God of the Universe!
- One middling possibility is that it’s possible that they are being complimentary. Maybe they liked the sermon and could see that I tried to make it meaningful. Maybe they liked the fact that I usually exegete why we do different things in the service and what they actually mean when we do them. Maybe they are just saying that it was thoughtfully connected to what we’re doing.
- Part of me wonders whether, when people say that, what they are really saying is “I thought I was going to come to a dull, slow, painful service, led by an out of touch relic in language that I don’t understand. Instead, I actually understood what you were saying and I didn’t mind the service that much at all.”
- Then the pessimist in me says that if people found it really enjoyable and “relevant”, then maybe it means I didn’t preach the gospel clearly enough, and what I should be aiming for is statements about it being “unsettling”, or “challenging.”
Whatever people mean, I’m glad for the opportunity to be able to share the gospel regularly with people, I’m comforted by the fact that any family that comes to bring their child for baptism hears what being in a relationship with Jesus is about, what being a part of the Church is about, and they look me in the eye and tell me that they can make baptism promises confidently. Finally, I enjoy the challenging of crafting what I do a little more each time. Can I be clearer, can I be more engaging, and can I go about everything in a winsome way that shows that being a friend of Jesus is the most relevant thing there is!