The day has finally come… Tomorrow we baptise three lovely ladies, one of whom God brought to a serious commitment of faith at a hen party(!), another of whom has walked with us for two and a half years whilst working out what a life commitment might mean for her, and the last of whom God has been drawing to a firm commitment to Christ and this community for something in the region of five years, albeit most of those years being connected to some of the community without being a Sunday attender more than once or twice.
The journey has been long, so much longer than the books ever lead you to believe. Mind you, the longer I lead the more I make this complaint – which kind of makes me wonder if I need to throw out the books! It’s been long because we don’t do ‘salvation calls’ or count ‘decisions’ at LifeGiving; instead we put all the emphasis on baptism after a period of time spent hanging out with us as we do life together and understanding the basics of what a life lived for Christ might look like. I’d like to pretend that this approach is more theologically-informed than pragmatically but, in the end, it’s kind of both. We don’t do the ‘while every head is bowed and eye closed’ and the ‘pray each line after me’ stuff because we believe that discipleship means so much more than a pressurised decision to the background of emotive and soul-stirring music. But it’s also pragmatic: we find those kind of ‘decisions’ rarely last anyway and generally create more problems for both leader and would-be convert than it’s worth.
So it will be with great joy that I climb down into the baptistry in the borrowed church tomorrow. I have waited years for one of these ladies to be ready to do this. Even better, the girl who will be baptising with me has waited years for two of their number to be ready, walking with them mid-week at work and play, even when they weren’t ready for a more formal involvement in our Sunday gatherings.
This, for me, is why I lead. It’s why I’ve not run away from church leadership, a calling which I love and hate – some days at the same time – a calling which has the power to fill me with joy and break my heart into a million pieces several times a week. I lead because this, what we’re doing tomorrow, is life in the abundance in which it was meant to be lived. This makes up for all the many things in church life about which I am so easily anxious and troubled; this is the one thing, to do what Christ told us to do.
Make disciples of all nations, baptising them…and teaching them to obey.
And to make disciples, that simplest of commands, is all he ever asked of me, you know, despite all my driven scramblings to do anything else in the church in his name.