Baptism and discipleship

Too many people are walking away from the Church. (Photo: Pexels)

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Nearly 50 per cent of people the Church baptises worldwide leave the Church. Our statistics reflect the same sorry pattern. Papua New Guinea lost 69 per cent of those baptised over a 10 year period, New Zealand Pacific Union lost 64 per cent, Trans-Pacific 30 per cent and Australia 22 per cent. We have a problem. We are not caring for those we baptise.

So when should a person be baptised? Pastors and local church boards have to consider this question as the church grows. Does baptism occur after completing studies on all of the 28 fundamental beliefs? Or after regular church attendance on Sabbath? Or after Jesus has given them victory in an aspect of life? Or . . .?

The New Testament is very clear— the person being baptised should have at least one life-changing encounter with Jesus (for some it may be many small encounters) (Acts 16:13-15, 25-34) and/or have a background in knowing God and/or following the Bible (Acts 8:26-40, 10:1-8, 48). Baptism is into Jesus (Matthew 28:19, 20, Acts 2:38). Jesus is the Head of the church (Ephesians 1:21, 22) so in baptism the person now belongs to the community of faith. [pullquote]

Each example of baptism in the Bible is different, just as each person considering baptism today has a different background and reasons. But why are those we baptise not staying with us?

The key question for the Church is not “when should a person be baptised” but what plans the local church has to continue to develop the baptised person into being a disciple of Jesus. A disciple is a follower of Jesus. A follower learns to do what Jesus did. A disciple needs to know how to grow in prayer, how to meditate in Scripture, how to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to discover and use their spiritual gift, how to serve others in the community and church, how to witness, how to give, how to keep the Sabbath . . .

With a plan for ongoing discipleship in Jesus each church can reverse the trend.

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