2020-05-12 - Results
2nd Peter 1: 5-9 (MSG) So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.
A recent excellent encore devotional by Adam made me think. (I know, dangerous!). And I believe that God is leading me to prayerfully share these thoughts now, which evolved as I pondered and researched. He mentioned that in his denomination - which happens to also be our current one - there were a fairly high number of churches who hadn't recorded any baptisms during a recent year of this last decade That troubled me, and I started wondering how the numbers would compare with other denominiations - as well as reasons.
Then I realized that for many denominations, there was NO way possible to do compare, since it is "apples and oranges," because they baptize ALL babies, so the results would be skewed. In those churches, there are NO "moments of decision," so to speak, and baptisms don't represent the same thing as they do in the SBC. I was in one of those denominations for over 20 years, and never heard of a single decision being made. That is NOT because the people don't trust in Christ for salvation; they do, and the live that out in their everyday lives as well as church service. But they just grew up believing in Christ's salvation for them. They don't have a "salvation moment," but they are no less "saved" than those of us who have one of these countable moments. There are NO altar calls, at least not in any of the churches where we were members or visitors while Presbyterian or Lutheran. But they DO believe in Christ., and they grow in Christ. My husband and fellow devotional writer is the same way. He grew up believing in Christ as His Savior, and didn't have a certain moment when he suddenly "became" a Christian. As far back as he can remember, he KNEW that Christ was His Savior, thanks to the teaching of his family and church.
I also know that in some Baptist churches, there are people who make decisions for Christ, but NOT at the moment of baptism, but many years earlier and occasionally later. Sometimes, those people come from churches in which THEY were already baptized at babies. In other words, some baptisms do not equal decisions for Christ at all, but rather dedications by adults, on behalf of children. (Perhaps a name change would help, calling them dedications, but I guess we are talking about many centuries of tradition!!) Their purposes is well-expressed in the vows that we adults say at these "baptisms;" they represent promises that we adults will teach and mentor them 'in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,' to quote the vows. But in those denominations, they are NOT decisions for Christ by those being baptized, so those denominations have countless baptism numbers that have a totally different meaning. And if the baptized children stay in those denominations, they will never have another baptism.
When the circumstances are vice-versa, the results can change. For example, Richard was "double-dipped," since the Baptist church didn't recognize or accept his Lutheran baptism. Even though he DID believe in Christ's salvation and had for years, they insisted on an immersion.
I also am aware that while some Baptist churches are increasing in numbers, in some cases, other Baptist churches are stagnating and "dog paddling" when they become more and more identified with liberal theology and the pursuit of "political correctness" goals which can interfere with a pure Gospel focus. That is yet another factor backed up by research. I have seen this happen too often.
This is a very important topic! So I started wondering if there are other "results" for which we should look. While my own church, and others with which I am personally familiar have had baptisms in recent years, and even some Apostle Paul-type conversions, we also have seen other types of results that are also Biblically important. Going past numbers, these other results for which we should look include spiritual growth. These relate to new church members and attendees (Nowadays, some people in varying denominations prefer to not officially join but instead are committed and active attenders.) We should look at whether they are becoming more active in church, whether they are getting more involved, coming to church more regularly, using their gifts in a ministry etc. It is like after a revival crusade. Does a change occur or is it "so-so" (Same 'ole, same 'ole)?
And in our OWN hearts, there are also "results" for which we should actively seek and pray. As we read the Bible more and pray more, we should:
If we are, we are growing into Christ. If we are not, we are stagnating. Either way, this is something that should be a continuing concern and goal for our entire lives, to grow more and more into Christ.
All verses are from the New American Standard Version (NASB) unless otherwise noted.
Please visit our Christian Fellowship Facebook page, and we welcome your input on our fledgling page! Invite a friend!