This post is not about the various methods of baptizing a new believer. It’s about something much more important, the Western church’s penchant to baptize certain methodologies because they have produced spiritual success.
This is exactly the action that a social scientist or anthropologist would predict for any person (Christian or not) coming from a Western culture. The culture that invented the assembly line, the corporation, modern management, monitoring and evaluation, and competitive capitalism is a culture that eats, sleeps, and breathes strategy, evaluation, and success. Western metaphors for business “dog eat dog” and “survival of the fittest” are based on the idea that success is a precondition which must underlie and support “mission, vision, and values”. The mission doesn’t matter, nor the values, if the organization can’t pursue it successfully.
Our culture has an obsession with the right way. The right technique. The one that is the easiest, fastest, most effective, and least expensive. It’s a legacy of industrialization. There are lots of different methodologies to find the right way, e.g. Six Sigma, MVT, etc.
Of course, it has spilled over in the church. But, at the risk of being redundant, whenever Christians start doing something new for the same reasons that non-believers are doing it, we should get very nervous. The Church has left the narrow path for the wide road more than a few times in the last 2000 years, and the results have never been pretty. What about here?
Are we doing good theology when we analyze methods by their spiritual success? Is this biblical?
This issue is confusing because it hits at our cultural roots, and because good people use the Bible to justify the methods. So the logic is: we know the method is biblical because it is successful, and thus worthy of replication. Can you see the issue yet?
Let’s take a look at a couple of tongue-in-cheek examples. Would your organization or church be willing to follow these biblical examples?
Acts 2 – Send a team to share the gospel with a large crowd of people by miraculously speaking their native language. Do it with such enthusiasm that the crowd thinks you are drunk. Result: 3000 people saved!
Acts 16 – Get thrown in jail for casting out demons. Praise God, and refuse to flee when God does a miracle, so that you can share the gospel with the guard. Result: The guard and his whole family get saved and Paul and Silas get free dinner!
Genesis 27 – Lie to your old, nearly blind father and impersonate your older brother so that you can steal your father’s blessing from your older brother. This method is most biblical if your older brother is currently doing an act of loving service for your elderly father. Result: Jacob becomes the sole inheritor of the covenant of Abraham and receive the blessing of God!
Judges 6 – Ask God for a sign several times after a clear voice from heaven speaks. Result: Defeat your enemies against incredible odds!
If they wouldn’t, why not? What is the difference between these methods and other biblical methods that they would follow? That feeling that you are feeling is cognitive dissonance. The real reason that your church or organization follows the method du jour is because they are successful and they make sense. But the real key is success.
The problem is, when we start talking about spiritual success: input does not equal output. We aren’t in control of the results. We are in control of our faithfulness. The real biblical example: Genesis 3.
I assume that we would all agree that God knows the right method and set up the best possible situation. His kids still rejected him. Your method is going to have to face the same reality. Humans have a choice to make, and sometimes they will choose God and sometimes they will not.
If there was a best method or a technique for doing evangelism or music or church planting, it would be clearly identified and explained in the Bible. Let’s not baptize our own creations (Satellite churches, House churches, Purpose Driven Life, Seeker Sensitive, Prophet Stories, Church Planting Movements, Contemporary Worship, etc.) just because God has graciously given success.
Don’t chase the right method or the right technique. Don’t chase success. The methods don’t matter and success all too often is a false sign! Look how many follow after anti-christs and false doctrines in the New Testament, and in the world today.
The narrow road leads to Jesus. Chase Jesus. That is hard enough. Be faithful to that calling. Can I say that most Christian methods that I have seen are “dis-integrating”? They tear apart what should be held together. They remove, they simplify. That’s also what an anthropologist would predict. But we are trying to live and be something greater than that.
Mision integral. Mission without anything left out.
If you are worried about the specifics, remember Numbers 22. God spoke through Balaam’s donkey. That should make you feel better. I mean, Balaam’s donkey wasn’t even a Jewish donkey. I’m sure that you know the Scriptures better than he (or she) did. And that donkey surely saved Balaam from God’s judgement.