Do you guys baptize adults in this place? (ammended)

Someone asked me the other day whether or not Presbyterians baptize adults. Surprised at the question, I told him that we do. He responded that he had never seen it in his several years at one P.C.A church. I told him that I’d baptized an adult and his two young daughters one Sunday, assuring him it does happen. But why does it not regularly happen, or at least as often as you might see in a Baptistic church?
1.) One explanation could be that Baptistic churches will re-baptize folks. So if they have been baptized as an infant, the church may require or at least encourage re-receiving the sign of baptism. People can be baptized more than once, sometimes more than twice. In a Presbyterian church, we will not re-baptize. So if someone who was baptized as a child or a teenager, and yet truly comes to a embrace and cherish Christ for the first time as an adult, he or she won’t be re-baptized. Baptistic churches tend to think of baptism as an outward sign of an inward reality, whereas Presbyterians see baptism as sign and seal of the promise. I have no desire to argue the validity of the latter, but simply want to show why we and they do what we and they do. So that may account for some of the lack of adult baptisms in Presbyterian churches.
2.) There is another other explanation; I don’t like it, because it is a bit more condemning. Yet I think it may be more likely the culprit in the dearth of Presbyterian adult baptisms as compared to our Baptistic brothers and sisters. It is possible that Baptistic churches just do a better job at reaching people for Christ than Presbyterian churches. It is possible that they simply “see” more conversions, or at the very least, more professions of faith. That’s probably the reason as much as I hate to admit it.
Now of course some Presbyterian churches do see plenty of adult baptisms. It has not been my experience in PCA churches where I’ve been a member or minister. Yet. I’m not throwing in the towel…..

As far as to why there are discrepancies in new professions of faith, which soon lead to the adult baptism discrepancies, well, that’s for another day. By the way, hope you enjoyed the picture of the 80’s Mormon baptism in the right hand side of the post. Apparently they immerse. Somehow I missed that in all of my front door Mormon conversations. Just for the record, Presbyterians would baptize you if you came to faith out of a Mormon background. Their baptism is not Trinitarian and so we would “legitimately” baptize for the first time. 

Sabal Point Kids Club

For several months, I had planned on having a bible club (craft, game, puppets, food, gospel presentation) at a local government subsidized apartment complex called Sable Point. Then two weeks ago I went with another leader to put up some fliers and found that corporate had taken over because some folks had resigned (or that’s what they told me…). The man in charge was not a fan of a “bible club” and asked us to change it to “spiritual club” (sounded too much like an Oprah book club for kids to me) so we secularized the title to “Kids Club.” And then we were told not to bring “religion” into it. However, upon his departure that afternoon, he seemed to indicate that he didn’t want to know what was going on. So with this vague-and open to interpretation-interaction, we continued on as planned. The remaining management didn’t care about our “Kids Club” and told me “good luck!”

As it turned out we had about 15-20 kids each day on Wed-Friday, many of them un-churched, bored, and some hungrier than others. After registering them, gathering them together to sing songs like “Father Abraham” to a “Sargent Peppers” sounding electric guitar, we shared the story of Creation, Fall, and Redemption through puppets and follow up gospel presentation. In between we did crafts like the gospel bracelets and gave them the opportunity to make laminated place mats which described themselves with pictures and included the theme verse James 2:23 “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness and he was called God’s friend.” Finally we fed them pizza, ice cream and hotdogs at the end of the clubs.
Since most of the Kids Club involved youth leadership, with adults there to facilitate, I would say it was a success. Giving youth opportunities to lead is as much part of the discipleship process as youth group or Sunday school. And on the last day, kids were asking, “When are you coming back?” The good thing is that we should have plenty of chance for follow-up with tutoring and showing movies. What seemed like a disaster with a last minute change in management proved to be nothing but a speed bump causing us to cry out to the Lord in prayer. He answered with much more than a “yes,” but with a “Yes and I’ll be there with ya’ll.” 

Tiring few days, but certainly exciting to be involved in what hopes to become a long term partnership. 

The evangelism of The Forgotten 500

This week I finished reading The Forgotten 500, a book about “the greatest rescue mission” of WW II. More than 500 downed airman who bailed out over the former Yugoslavia were eventually picked up over a period of months. These lads actually had to make a rudimentary airstrip with their bare hands and a few tools, while working at night, praying the Germans didn’t discover their operation. The “odds,” if you will (and I guess I won’t, or at least shouldn’t), were definitely stacked against them. Not one soldier or pilot was lost in this operation. Truly a miracle.
Yet it was a miracle that wasn’t told. And its a shame. Due to the fragile state of post war relations, and the mistakes of the Americans and British backing the communist partisans, the story went largely and intentionally untold and proclaimed. You could feel the sadness of these soldiers not being able to tell their story. After all, what good is good news if you can’t share it?
Still these soldiers fought to tell the story and clear the name of the Serbian general Draza Mihailovich. Despite governmental interference and often times, attempts to keep them quiet, they would not take no for an answer. They could not protect the one whom they owed their freedom from post-war assassination by the communists, but they would see to it that people knew the truth about their savior. Mihailovich saw that these men were provided for and would not give them up to the Germans no matter what retribution occurred. The truth about him must be told.
These fallen airmen truly provide us a great example of evangelism. There will always be opposition, sometimes governmental interference, and situations which seem to seem like closed doors. But these men were bound by the truth and the need to honor their savior. Their gratitude knew no bounds. It had nothing to do with guilt. It had everything to do with a perpetually thankful heart and the honor of someone who would not let the enemy pry them out of his hands.

Thankfulness and the glory of our Savior are probably the best evangelistic motivators, and certainly what sustained them in all of their frustrating “evangelistic” efforts. When others are putting up relational barriers, that sense of “I’m doing this for them because they need Jesus,” will often lead (at least in my experience) to anger at those who do truly need Jesus. But when everything is grounded in Christ, including our motivation for sharing the gospel, we become less angry and more patient with those who seem disinterested or hostile in discussing spiritual matters. Paradoxically, we then become more compelled to share, but freer to relax and thus elude unnecessary frustration.

Even if you’re not a WWII buff, this well written book includes life stories of many of the soldiers and how they providentially collided to in order to provide such a rescue. Worth the read.

Should sports be a platform for Jesus?

With the Jim Tressel debacle behind us for a few moments, a CNN beliefnet blogger had a take on Evangelism and Sports. He questions whether or not sports and Christianity really do go together as “peanut butter and jelly” as Deon Sanders once put it. He quotes another athlete, former Houston Astros 3rd Basemen Morgan Ensberg: “The entire reason I play baseball is so that I get a chance to speak about Christ.” The question he raises is fairly simple and straightforward: is big time spectator sports really the best venue for the promotion of Christianity.
I can’t say that I totally agree with his take, but I think he does bring up some valid concerns. 
1.) The number of Christian athletes who profess Christ, but fall into some serious public sins. Eugene Robinson soliciting a prostitute the night before the Super Bowl is sadly only one example of many. Some folks, for some time, might do better at just (said tongue in cheek of course as all work can still glorify God) being a Christian ball player: not speaker, not writer. Their teammates will know, even if the media doesn’t. And that’s OK. It might not be a bad idea for some players to turn down speaking engagements. Perhaps for a season, perhaps longer. I don’t think its a bad idea to wait some time (and mature) before you publicly promote your faith and join the “circuit.” We’ve seen how easy it is for folks to fall. 
2.) Perhaps Christian athletic promoters have borrowed a bit too much for the marketing of this world. If someone is promotable, go and promote them. Make money off them. Or get them in front to tell people about Jesus. Sounds good on the front end, but what about the back side? Perhaps those promoting athletes like publishers need to offer or require more discipleship, accountability, fellowship? Or perhaps those promoting Christian athletes need to be choosier? It’s tough to argue against his penultimate paragraph: 
The ability to draw a huge audience does not make a given cultural venue an appropriate platform for promoting Christian faith — not if that venue promotes win-at-all-costs behavior and values that are in such deep tension with the central message of the religious “product” being sold.
3.) Skeptics will be present regardless, and “fallen” Christian athletes probably don’t necessarily hurt the spread of the gospel. While one hostile to Christianity may point to Tressel as an example for why he or she doesn’t believe, or why he or she doesn’t think Christianity belongs in sports,  the same person will overlook the Dungy’s and Tebow’s. There will always be “haters,” and people will always blame their lack of belief on something other than their own hardness of heart.
4.) This lad seems optimistic about the future of sports and Christianity, citing Athletes in Action as a positive example that winds of change are blowing.
The new currents are tugging sports ministry toward a model where it’s not about exploiting sports as part of a marketing strategy, but about serving them as a prophetic force for their moral betterment.
I just don’t know what this looks like, but I would definitely be interested in hearing it explained. Maybe I’ll email this lad. 

Just how to practice and express one’s Christian faith in sports may not be as simple as I once thought. I appreciate this lad’s thoughts even though I’m still chewing on some of them, and may spit one or two out.

Tim Tebow, Jon Stewart, and Extreme

Last week Tim Tebow continued to promote his new book Through My Eyes on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart. While Stewart takes shots at the left and the right, his atheism clearly comes out from time to time. So Tebow seemed to take a big risk even going on the show.
I think most folks would be afraid to do so. But in basketball, sometimes the best thing you can do to a shot blocker is to take it right to him. Challenge him. But for the Christian, this challenging looks quite a bit different. 
Here’s an excerpt from Tebow’s dialog with Stewart, borrowed from this article
For example, Stewart asked Tebow how old he is.

“Twenty-three,” Tebow said.

“A lot of people might say you want to wait until you’re 24 to write an autobiography,” Stewart said.

Tebow then talked about his parents’ background as missionaries, and his support of an orphanage in the Phillipines.

“Wow.  You seem like a real a#@hole,” Stewart said.

Replied Tebow without hesitation, “I mean, but that’s how I try to come across.”

When Stewart raised the topic of the struggles of “Ohio State University,” Tebow was quick to correct him.  “The Ohio State University,” Tebow said.
Mike Florio of was quite impressed. In addition, one of the comments on the article included this response: “No matter how hard I try to not like this guy, I can’t.” 
That’s kind of the picture we get of evangelism in I Peter. Our C.D. (community/discipleship) group has been working our way through this very challenging book and has seen that the importance of our actions, particularly suffering, and how such actions can display the gospel. While I Peter 3:15 has often, and I think rightly, been quoted as a reason why apologetics (defending the faith) is important, evangelism in the book of I Peter is primarily done through actions and attitudes, not words. In fact, it is through a submissive life that wives may “save” their husbands (I Peter 3:1). And our conduct-particularly as we suffer and not retaliate-before non-believing officials and bosses may cause them to “glorify God on the day of visitation (I Peter 2:12).”

Sometimes folks will hate Christians when they try to honor God and not submit to the cultural idols. But often, if Christians are truly following Christ, they can gain respect from the same folks.

Your life before others matters. Your words before others matter. Both are evangelistic in some sense. Athletes don’t have to mention the name of Jesus every time they get in front of a camera to honor Him. Neither do you. Your words, even when the gospel isn’t mentioned or brought up, can be pre-evangelistic. When your words and your life garner respect, you may gain some eager listeners. 

This doesn’t negate the need for a verbal proclamation of the gospel. Our sharing the gospel cannot be less than words. There is a message of reconciliation which has to be communicated. But while sharing the gospel cannot be less than words, it cannot only be words. Like the band Extreme’s once famous power ballad reminds us, it has to be “more than words.”