“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:25–27, ESV)
“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all given one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:13, CSB)
I was saved as a young adult. At 21, I was baptized by my pastor. I was so proud to be baptized that I invited my family (who lived 45 miles away) to come, which they did, and 17 of my college friends attended as well. Some of them just came to see if I’d go through with it.
My pastor had me memorize Galatians 2:20 and say it out loud before I was immersed. It’s a fitting verse because it describes the life we as believers are to live; dead to the old self and alive to the new. Baptism is a fitting visual reminder and testimony of this. Though I was baptized decades ago, I still remember it fondly. It was a primary spiritual marker for my life. In this article, I want to give you five things that you can do that will encourage more baptisms and make these baptisms spiritual markers in your church’s life as well.
1. Preach messages on Baptism
Preach on the baptism of John and what it meant as a precursor to Christian baptism. Preach on the baptism of Jesus, and how the Father was pleased at the obedience of his son. Preach on the practice of baptism in the book of Acts. Preach on the theological implications of baptism in Romans chapter 6 and 1 Corinthians chapter 12.
All these suggested sermon topics can be placed within the mandate of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) Jesus gave to make disciples by immersing them in the reality of the triune God. I’m sure you can come up with many more topics and Scriptures to teach and preach on baptism.
2. Make a current baptism a teaching and inviting experience
There are so many, many opportunities we miss when we don’t take advantage of important moments to reach those already attending our church services. I’ll just list some bullet point ideas that will help you to move forward.
Use the actual time of baptism as a time to share a teaching on why many quote Romans 6:4. You can take a few moments and teach from the baptistry or at the time of welcome. You may want to make a time of baptism a topic of the sermon on ordinances.
If you have a card, QR code or Text Message for registering guests and taking prayer requests and needs, use this time to invite people who have not participated in believers Baptism to requests a no-strings-attached consultation to answer questions.
Share the different views Christian denominations have in the theology, practice, and mode of baptism and why your church practices believer’s baptism. Invite people who were baptized as infants or who were “baptized” at confirmation and who later became believers to follow in believers’ baptism. This is an opportunity to invite others who were “baptized” by other modes than immersion to follow in the New Testament example of believer’s baptism.
For an example of some things that could be said before baptizing, here is a video of Rick Warren presenting a brief teaching on baptism before a baptism.
3. Schedule and promote baptism services as celebrations
I think we also miss opportunities to to reach family and friends of new believers. Making an occasion for baptism a full-blown celebration is an excellent way to make a great impression for the Great Commission. Here is what you can do, treat a baptism like a birthday party or anniversary celebration.
Share with the candidates for baptism that the church would like to make their baptism a memorable experience for them and for their friends and family. Ask if the church could throw them a party, with invitations, a moment of recognition at baptism and a short reception for them all prior to the baptism. This would allow the church to meet them as guests, have coffee and dessert in a celebratory social setting.
There are some helpful baptism ideas that you can find by searching the web. Tim Williams has written several times on this for Georgia Baptists. You can find his articles and links to other resources by clicking on the two buttons bellow:
Our North American Mission Board, SBC has over the years produced Baptist Sunday and Baptism Celebration materials. You can find their free resources here:
4. Offer another venue for baptisms
The last church I pastored; we had a perfectly good baptistry in the main sanctuary. However, we also had another modern worship service in another building with no means for baptizing there. Our regular practice was to have baptism candidates from the modern service be baptized in the main sanctuary. On those Sundays it would affect our modern worship attendance. Almost all our youth attended the modern service. A few times after summer camp, we would set up an inflatable swimming pool in the modern service area and baptize there. It was fun and interesting to see the youth and their families help to set up the pool, bring snacks and prepare for the celebration. This offered a completely different atmosphere to those who were not regular church-attending people.
Other venues could be a home swimming pool, a neighborhood pool (with permission), a lake, a river, and even on a beach! In my second pastorate, our church was only 6 years old and had built a multipurpose building for worship. There was no baptistry. We used a large horse trough. We set up the trough in the welcome area and videoed the baptism live into the service. This also gave us the opportunity to record the baptism and give it to the candidates.
This church was in was Stillwater, Oklahoma. It is the home of Oklahoma State University. One year we baptized several of the university basketball team members. The trough was large, but these athletes were tall! I had to baptize them in segments. When the head went down,
the knees came up. But at some point, they were all immersed. These are great memories. Great memories for me, for the church and for the families and friends of those baptized. Baptize when you can, where you can and however you can.
Pictured here is my friend, Pastor Kevin Hisey of Open Door Church in Enid Oklahoma. Baptizing in a horse trough is second nature to these folks!
“As they were traveling down the road, they came to some water. The eunuch said, “Look, there’s water. What would keep me from being baptized?” So he ordered the chariot to stop, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.” (Acts 8:36–38, CSB)
5. Create an ongoing baptism culture using videos, certificates, reception, follow-up of guests, and website presence.
Other pastors and church leaders have done a great job in championing a culture of baptism in their churches. No matter what your thoughts are on the ministry of Saddleback Church and Rick Warren, you must admit that they have done much to create a celebratory culture of believers’ baptism. A few years ago, Rick wrote an article entitled “40 Ways to Increase Baptisms in the Next Year.” I’ve provided the link to that below. I believe you will find something there that will be a help in creating your own church’s unique baptism culture.
The last thing I have to say on this is to ask you to take a few minutes right now and write down thoughts that come to mind concerning your church and baptisms. One suggestion I’d give is to schedule baptisms ahead of time, even when you don’t have a candidate ready. If you give enough time, space, and prayer, you and your church will be thinking more about it and if you ask, God will give. Nothing energizes a church like new believers, and nothing excites a new believer more than their church celebrating them with excitement, love, and support. In times such as these, we all need to see a death and burial to the old end with a rising again to new life in Christ. Amen.