We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that,
just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father,
we too may live a new life.
My church takes baptism seriously.
Standing in front of the congregation, the person about to be baptized is asked, “Is Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior, and do you trust in Him? Do you intend to be his disciple and obey his word, and to show his love to others?” In the case of infant baptism, the parent assumes the promise until the child is old enough to claim their faith as their own. Whether it’s an adult or an infant, someone always answers, “I do.”
Then the pastor will turn to the congregation and ask, “Do you promise to guide and nurture these new believers to know and follow Christ?” If we commit to the promise, we are asked to stand. Hundreds in my church do, but some don’t. And that’s fine. They may be visiting, or they may not feel equipped to “guide and nurture,” or they may be unsure of what the promise really entails. But I know, and I stand.
I was baptized as an infant in the Catholic church. My godparents stood alongside my parents and made a similar promise to guide and nurture me in faith. But they didn’t. They were Catholic on paper, but not Christians at heart. As I matured, there were no words of wisdom. No encouraging birthday cards or thoughtful Christmas gifts. No phone calls or visits. In fact, without possession of my baptismal certificate, I would be unable to tell you the names of my godparents.
Luckily, there were others who filled in and provided wise counsel along the way, who took the command of Christ seriously. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)
Guiding and nurturing new—and not-so-new—believers to follow Christ is not that hard. The main thing is to show up and show Christ.
In the Bible, Paul poured into Timothy, and Peter poured into John Mark. As I look back over my life, I see all the people who poured into me when they modeled God and pointed to his love through their actions and words: Dave, Anna, Felix, Paul, Mike, Louise, Bonnie, and Jack. They showed up to show me Christ.
So, when my church asks the congregation to guide and nurture these new believers, what I commit to is showing up and showing Christ. This does not mean that I knock on their door unannounced or send them birthday cards. It means that I will model God for them as much as humanly possible, and when I interact with them directly, I will do my best to reflect his love.
Parents have the opportunity to do this every day. But because I’m not a parent, I must create or seek out situations where I can speak about God to the next generation. That’s why I volunteer to work with the students at church, host a college Bible study in my backyard during the summer, financially support kids who go on mission trips, and invite students over to my house for coffee. I also strive to love on my nieces, nephews, and great nieces and nephews in ways I wish my godparents had loved on me.
On occasion, opportunities to reflect God will present themselves organically. In such instances, it is my duty as a Christian to be prepared. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15)
I recently attended a town picnic in the park across from my church. As my husband and I approached an open bench to take a seat, a pre-school boy crawled up and settled himself in the middle. Undeterred, I asked if we could join him. He politely moved over as we introduced ourselves. He said his name was Oliver.
Within seconds, his mother was over asking her son not to bother us, but I kindly asked if he could stay and chat. He was so delightful, and I felt privileged to be in his presence.
To make a long story short, we all ended up talking, and I learned that this family had been contemplating attending my church. (No coincidence that we should meet!) I told this mother about our pastors and programs, and I let her know that my husband and I would be leading the worship music that coming Sunday. (Once again, no coincidence, that we would be singing!)
Who should I see as I stepped in front of the mic to sing two days later? You guessed it! I waved, and little Oliver waved back. I remembered him, and he remembered me! After service, I approached Oliver’s mom to say hello. Still several feet away, Oliver ran toward me and threw his arms around my legs. I’d like to think that Oliver’s precious greeting was a sign that he felt safe and welcomed by the love of Christ in me.
We often make promises we can’t keep, or we make promises thinking no one will hold us accountable. But God is watching and listening. So, whether you’re a parent, a godparent, or just someone sitting in the pews—a promise to help raise a child to follow Christ is serious business and should not be taken lightly. Luckily, showing up is quite easy and, oftentimes, incredibly rewarding.
THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND is Baptized by Zach Williams.
Lyrics: “All those years I spent running, You've given me back. Now I'm stepping in, oh, I'm stepping in.”