Several years ago, I shifted the way I do baptism testimonies. As a pastor, I am constantly looking for ways to make the message of the Gospel connect in people’s lives. So, I am hopeful to use every potential avenue to do that.
For more years than I can count, I have required a written testimony for baptisms. If you came for baptism, I required you to take time to write out a short testimony:
- What was your life like before Christ?
- How did you become a Christ-follower?
- How has your life been impacted since that time?
Ultimately, the goal was to equip believers with a tool they could share when communicating with others about this new Christian life. We would share the testimony on behalf of the candidate just before baptism. It was cool.
A few years ago, I changed the approach. I still encourage someone to write out a testimony; however, I also require a video-based presentation of the testimony which we play before the church. The format of the video is flexible. Some people want to read their testimony. Others prefer to answer questions. Still others…we do in interview form. This is really good for kids. I interview them by asking questions about their decision…but also about their understanding of the gospel and its implications for their lives.
I have noticed though, that some folks slip into “eye-roll mode” when I ask questions…as if the questions are “silly.” The fact is, some of them are. As such, let me explain WHY I do it the way that I do.
- UNDERSTANDING. I use questions to check understanding. I want to know if a person realizes that they are a deeply-flawed sinner, and not just a person with a few indiscretions to their name. I want to know if the person thinks that baptism “saves” or if they recognize it more accurately as an act of obedience in identification with Christ.
- APPLICATION. I ask questions about what a person did with the gospel. How did you apply that when you realized it?
- IMPLICATION. This is maybe the category with the “silliest questions,” particularly with kids. I will ask a child: Would you marry an ugly person if Jesus told you to? Would you be a missionary if Jesus said so? Would you do your homework if Jesus said to? Honestly, I am driving at an understanding of Jesus as Lord. I could ask that directly, but what I’ve found is that by seeking to APPLY Lordship is often harder and more impactful. Do I know that Jesus calls everyone to be a missionary? Of Course! Do I think that God would say to a person, “Go find an ugly boy to marry.” Not really, but I do know that God’s standard of who we marry may conflict with what others think or what we might dream up in our hearts apart from Christ.
This practice of interviewing and asking application/implication questions is not a novelty. The ancient church embraced a form of this with the catechism.
What I believe for certain is this: A proper understanding of the gospel is essential and increasingly rare. While I don’t think the video and questions are a “be all-end all” solution, I hope they help. So, if you hear a silly question and conclude that the pastor is just silly, perhaps pause for a moment and think charitably toward him. Maybe, he’s just trying to ensure that the public commitment of baptism is a genuine and sure commitment on the part of the candidate.
Also, and this is just a secondary benefit…in the world of Facebook and other forms of Social Media…baptism testimonies are great tools for sharing.
If you have other thoughts, I’d love to hear.