“...upon your profession of faith in Christ, your Lord and Savior, I baptize you in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Ghost.” The words proclaimed by Pastor Ken Hendricks had been uttered countless times before.
As he and his helper lowered the young boy into the baptismal pool, then lifted him out of the water, dripping wet, he continued, “Buried with Christ by baptism...raised to walk in newness of life.”
Pastor Ken has baptized hundreds of folks of all ages in his 27 years at Woodlawn Baptist Church, in Hopewell, Virginia. In the 28 years I served as pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church, in Bristol, Tennessee, I also repeated those words - or some very similar - nearly 200 times while administering the ordinance of believer’s baptism.
Every person who follows the example of Jesus, when He was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, gives testimony of their faith in the Christ. Each one is important. Every baptism matters. But none has been more important than James David Nash, the boy Pastor Ken baptized that morning at the beginning of the morning worship service at Woodlawn.
I rejoice for every individual I was privileged to baptize as a pastor. Four of those were my own children. None is more important than the others. But James David is our grandson. Nahnee and I were so joy-filled, so proud, so thankful, for that simple act. We drove hundreds of miles to be there. We have done the same for other grandchildren and will gladly travel any distance to see the others when they make that commitment.
During my years as a pastor, I performed baptisms in many different settings and with various circumstances. The first man I baptized was in a shallow river. The water was knee-deep and he had to lay down flat to be immersed under the water. Then there was the young boy that decided to swim across the river, after his baptism. He slipped climbing up a steep, muddy bank and fell back in the water. Fortunately someone pulled him safely out of the current. Can you imagine trying to explain a drowning at a baptism?
Then there was the time when we used a spot where a spring-fed creek flowed into the river. It was very cold, and, by the time I had baptized a dozen souls, I was numb from the waist down. After that we stuck to heated baptistries.
I’ve overfilled baptismal pools and flooded the church sanctuary and baptized someone so big that displaced water spilled out of the baptistry and sprinkled the choir. All sizes and ages have entered the waters of baptism. At 89 years of age, Roy Barrett was the oldest person I ever baptized. Eight-year-old Evan Bedwell was baptized the same day. A few years earlier, an 86-year-old gentleman passed away unexpectedly two days after I baptized him.
The most important thing about baptism is that it is an outward, visual testimony of an inward, spiritual commitment. When James David called to tell Sammie and me that he had decided to dedicate his whole life to Jesus, Nahnee told him that was the most important decision he would ever make.
At the close of the service when our young grandson was baptized, Pastor Ken repeated that belief, almost word for word. “James David, you have made the most important decision you will make in your life.” Then he added, “Now go home and be a good boy.”
Professing one’s faith in Jesus as Savior and committing one’s life to Christ as Lord is only the beginning of the Christian life. Living for him at home, at school, at work or wherever we may be is a lifetime responsibility.
“A little child shall lead them.”
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me. Do not forbid them. Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Steve Playl: email@example.com