Constant conversation

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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?

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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!

2 thoughts on “Constant conversation

  1. For us here it’s probably been more number 3 but i love the idea of looking at all the other options too. the question i’ve always wondered is what’s next? one church i was at had over 100 baptisms a year including “private” ones. there wasn’t even 1% take up of any further attendance and more importantly indication of any promises sticking. my concern in it all was did they leave (regardless of what was said) with a bit of paper and a maintained view that being baptised is either just a nice rite of passage or worse still something that will get them into heaven.

    1. Absolutely! I’ve become more & more militant in talking about this in baptism prep. I push “thanksgiving services” pretty hard, and even have a check list at the end of our prep that they have to tick, that before the service they understand the gravity of the promises they are making, during the service they can answer on behalf of their child and be confident that they mean it, and that after the service they intend to bring up their kid in the life & the faith of the Church.
      I was totally despairing of it recently though, because we have so few turn up again, but in the last 2 months, I’ve had one family come to church a couple of weeks in a row, and another make enquiries as to whether we can go through the process of the Father getting confirmed!
      The other big challenge our family service committee is looking at now is how do we build connections between our current families & baptism families?

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