I received a copy of the agenda for the Southern Baptist Convention via Baptist Press and found a very interesting statement made FIVE times in the program:
Because baptism is an ordinance of the church, all baptisms will be conducted with full approval and support of a sponsoring home church, members of each of which will be present to witness.
It seems there will be separate occasions where people will be actually baptized during the convention.
Again, the above statement is made FIVE times in the program. In my view the statement is completely unnecessary. Here's why:
(1). What does "full approval and support of a sponsoring home church" mean?
Did all the members of the home church vote? Did they vote unanimously ("full support")? Did the members of the church hear the person's testimony before they voted? Why are we waiting for the convention to baptize?
(2). What does "members of each of which will be present to witness" mean?
Witness what? Witness that they were truly and fully immersed? Witness the credentials of the person who baptized them? Witness to make sure that the baptism was "official"?
Don't get me wrong! I am thrilled we are baptizing people at the SBC. But I have a novel idea!
Why don't we go out and win the taxi cab drivers of Greensboro to Christ and baptize them at the convention? Why don't we go into the highways and byways and win a homeless person to Christ and baptize him at the convention? Why don't we win a waitress to faith in Christ and baptize her at the convention?
The people to whom the Great Commission was given are the people to whom the privilege to baptize was given. Every disciple of Christ has the privilege to baptize his or her convert.
But wait! Isn't baptism a "church" ordinance! Of course it is! But the church is the "ekklesia" --- the called out people of God. The church is an organism, not an institution. The church is people, not a steeple. The church is a "them," not an it.
We are the church. Frankly, if a person were to be converted to faith in Christ on the streets of Greensboro by one of the messengers of the convention, and then baptized at the convention's baptismal service, I would be ecstatic. Suppose the day after his baptism the convert moved to my hometown of Enid, Oklahoma to take a job with Advance Food Company, and the next Sunday he sought to join our local church (ekklesia)--- here is how the conversation would go:
Pastor Wade: "Tell me about your faith in Christ."
Convert: "Last week I was walking down the streets of Greensboro, North Carolina when a man I had never met before stopped me to ask for directions. After I told him how to get to where he was going he then asked me a question that stopped me cold in my tracks. He asked me, 'I now know where I'm going at this moment in time, but do you know where you are going when you die?' I had just been told earlier that day that my dad was diagnosed with cancer and my thoughts had been upon death and his question sent chills up my spine.
I said, 'Sir, I don't know where I'm going when I die, could you give me directions?' With that, the man told me about Jesus Christ. He told me that because of my disobedience to God I deserved the holy punishment of God for my sin, but that God in His love for sinners like me sent His Son Jesus Christ to bear on the cross the punishment due me for my rebellion to God. There on the street corner of Greensboro, North Carolina I knelt and confessed my sins before God and trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord."
Pastor Wade: Tell me about your baptism.
Convert: You won't believe this, but the man who led me to Christ asked if I would come with him to a coliseum where I stood before 20,000 people and told them that my faith was in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of my sins, and before 20,000 people the man who led me to faith in Christ baptized me as an expression of my faith in the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When I came out of the water people were applauding and shouting "Hallelujah!" and I knew I was one of them!
Pastor Wade: My friend, welcome to our fellowship at Emmanuel Baptist Church. We receive you into our local church (local "ekklesia") based upon your statement of faith in Jesus Christ and your profession of that faith through believer's baptism.
For the sake of my hypothetical story and Biblical argument pretend I was not at the SBC Convention.
Not one person from our church "approved" the baptism.
Not one person from our church "witnessed" the baptism.
We listened to the convert's testimony of faith. We listened to the convert's testimony of baptism. There is one faith, one Lord, one baptism. This convert had faith in Christ. He had faith in THE one Lord called Jesus Christ. He was baptized by immersion, after having come to faith in Christ and is part of the "ekklesia." Our local church RECEIVED HIM INTO OUR FELLOWSHIP!
Question to ponder: How is the above scenario NOT Biblical?
I would propose that refusing to recognize the church in a "universal" sense as all of our old Baptist confessions did, leads us to adopt a very narrow view of the "church" that leads to an institutional understanding of an assembly that far more resembles Mormonism than Biblical, evangelical Christianity.
Finally, this is a post about the SBC --- and the program of the SBC --- and not one word has been said about any other agency.
In His Grace,