This summer marks my 50th spiritual birthday. I was baptized into Christ in 1973 at my home church, though I don’t remember the date (I think it was July). I no longer have the baptism certificate which had the date & the minister’s signature on it…but I don’t think I need to have it to present for admission into Heaven! As a 9-year-old who’d attended church since birth, I made the spontaneous decision to accept Christ as Savior during the invitation offered at the end of the sermon. I’d taken a class about becoming a Christian on some previous Saturday morning but gave no indication that Sunday was the day that I would make the most important & best decision of my whole life.
Who led me to that decision? First, my family, especially my grandmother. Secondly would have been my Sunday School teachers who instructed me every week of my life — godly people like Mrs. Snyder (who offered prizes for Bible competitions) & Mr. Bailey (who brought cookies, & would humor my request to call me “Butch” for some reason). I got to spend my entire youth in that one church. I loved my home church, & am blessed to have nothing but good memories of it. I met my future wife there in the youth group, & eventually married her there. Penny & I went back to Indianapolis a while back to visit Ben Davis Christian Church (named after the community, not a person). The photo on top is from probably the early 80s; the photo below is us 2 1/2 years ago standing in front of it. It’s changed & expanded a lot. Some of my youth group friends still attend & are leaders there.
Never underestimate the impact of caring Bible teachers in the Kids Ministry! We have wonderful people like that at Southpoint & we value them. But I pray that more would step up to serve in the children’s programs because they’re so open to the Gospel & the Scriptures, & so in need of adult role models who love Jesus. We especially need men like that because so few children are around godly men like that.
The third influence for me being baptized was my preaching minister who offered the invitation at the end of the sermon. I don’t remember any of his sermons, & of course, thought they were boring. I would sometimes get antsy & ask to go to the bathroom or the drinking fountain to escape for a while. But I was listening as I sat on those pews doodling with a golf pencil on the blue index-sized “roll call” cards (what “connection cards” used to be called). After I went forward to confess my faith, they took me “backstage” to the changing rooms to disrobe & put on a white robe. But for some reason I decided to keep my socks on. I remember standing in the baptistry with the minister, but I didn’t look out at the congregation, so I couldn’t even tell you if anyone was there!
I do know that some of my family was not there to witness it, so they were disappointed. But I believe they understood the importance of doing it immediately instead of waiting for another day when they could attend. That’s not what baptism is about. Baptism is to be done immediately, not delayed. You shouldn’t wait for some specially scheduled “Baptism Sunday” once a month or once a quarter. It’s not about gathering a crowd to watch (though that would be a bonus), it’s about uniting with Christ, appealing for a clean conscience, receiving forgiveness & the gift of the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t matter who’s there because it’s between you & God. So when you know you should, you do it right then, even if its the middle of the night (Acts 8:35-38, 16:25-33, 22:16)!
I don’t really remember going to “junior church” during worship services. I sat with family in the “big church” for an intergenerational experience of worship where I grew to appreciate singing hymns & taking communion together. I’m so thankful we have an engaging & fun Kids’ Ministry at Southpoint which combines both the concepts of Sunday School & worship — this has always been an important value. But for the holidays we cancel elementary programs so that they can sit with their families in “big church.” It’s good for kids to see their folks singing loudly, taking communion, giving offerings, & engaging with the Scriptures.
If you have children, consider bringing them to “big church” more often than just holiday weekends! Set the example of making weekly worship a priority & teach them respect for the importance of what’s happening. Let them know it’s your family’s priority to put God first. Let them see it’s your delight, not just a duty. Show up on time (even though better late than never) so that you don’t miss any part of worship. Don’t let Sunday worship become optional for your family by allowing other things to take precedence. It sets in place for them the terrible habit of relegating God to the back burner of their schedule.
I joke that I had a drug problem as a kid — I got “drug” to church every week! And I’m so glad I was. I never got to vote on whether I was going to church each Sunday — I went (unless I was sick). Period. Kids get such a very small amount of time to engage with the things of God, especially now in a world that so strongly tries to seduce them away & submerge them in ungodliness for endless hours each week. So don’t waste a single week by skipping church. If they complain, “Do we HAVE to?” You reply, “No…we GET to!”
Yes, children can sometimes be disruptive in adult worship services, which is why we have a special “Comfort Room” at the back of our Trenton auditorium where they can seclude with their parents behind a glass wall & still experience the service. But even if they do make some occasional noise in the auditorium, we welcome them! I know it can be distracting, but it’s also a beautiful sound to hear the next generation in church! We can show some grace for that, can’t we? My prayer is that your kids will have at least the same good experience here as I did at my “home church,” & that they’ll make life-transforming decisions here too!