Yesterday Allan was baptised. It was a wonderful party.
Both Allan and I grew through the experience.
I think I now understand what is important in our context.
Maybe my new understanding will help you as you prepare people for baptism. I'd love to hear how you celebrate baptism with your groups.
People in our community are familiar with the citizenship ceremony. Many of us are recent migrants and we have either become Australian citizens or been invited to watch some of our friends become citizens.
What happens at a citizenship ceremony? Someone gives a speech about what citizenship means. There is often a musical item. People are asked to make a pledge of commitment. They are given some objects to remind them of the event.
I decided to build upon that framework. First I waited until Allan came to faith. That was a four year wait for me. Allan decided he wanted to baptized on or near his birthday (seems to be a common Chinese response).
To prepare for the baptism we did a Discovery Bible Study on Romans 6:1-14. That is a great passage for an overview of the significance of baptism.
I then told Allan that he would need to invite at least five of his friends and prepare a short talk on how he came to faith. Allan decided to write a 30 minute talk. That is longer than I was expecting, but this is his party for his friends. Allan wrote it so that they would come to faith. Here is the English translation. Let me know if you want the Chinese original.
On the day of the party we had games for the children to play while we waited for all the guests to arrive. When they were all there we encouraged them to load up their plates with afternoon tea so they would have something to eat while Allan spoke.
Allan had prepared written copies of his talk in both Chinese and English. He chose to give the talk in Mandarin, the language most of the group understood.
I then explained the significance of baptism to the visitors. I tried to choose easy words that they could relate to.
"Baptism involves water. We use water to clean things. Just before this party I used water to clean our tables. The water reminds us that God has washed away Allan's sin. God has made him clean.
"Many of my friends use much more water than I do for baptism. They will take you to a pool and push you under the water. If they were to hold people under the water for a couple of hours they would die. They don't do that. But baptism reminds us of death. It says we are dying to our old way of life, where we are the boss and that we are now going to start a new life -- relying on God to direct us and to give us the power to live life his way.
"My father was a knifemaker. He used to baptize knives. He would heat the metal red hot, pound on it until it was the right shape and the plunge in into the water. The cold water would change the properties of the metal. It would harden it so it would keep a sharp edge. In the same way, baptism changes us.
"You may not feel any different during the baptism. I know I did not feel anything special when I became an Australian citizen. But there were benefits: I could now vote. This had become by country. There are also benefits of baptism. You know that God has forgiven all your sins. You know God will give you power to live life His way. You also know He has prepared a place in heaven for you."
"The Bible says I should baptize you "in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit". There is only one God, and this is what He wants me to do."
I then poured three cups of water over Allan, repeating these words. I gave him a towel to dry off.
My wife then played a song from YouTube that was important to her: "Welcome to the Family". Several of us gave gifts to Allan to help him remember his baptism: a cross and a Bible.I prayed for Allan and then we celebrated his physical birthday by lighting a candle on a cake. The adults kept talking while the children went back to playing games.
Did this event change Allan? I know it did. He posted the pictures on WeChat and immediately sent copies of his talk to friends in China. I am looking forward to how God will use him to reach many others with the Gospel.
I'd love to hear how you celebrate baptism in your DBS.