Nothing is more moving, more meaningful, more inspiring, more invigorating to me than a baptism. A life that has been changed emerges from the water, publicly confessing Jesus as Forgiver and Leader. They are forever marked, forever changed.
Their marriage will never be the same.
Their parenting will never be the same.
Their self-esteem, sense of purpose, value system, code of conduct, investment in community, sense of vocation and calling, will never be the same.
And most of all, their eternity will never be the same.
Yet in a conversation with a member of our staff, I was lamenting how some Christians forget the effort that was made on their behalf to come to Christ. They turn away from the heartbeat of the mission that resulted in their faith.
Then out came a sentence I hadn’t articulated before:
“Some people dry off from their baptism.”
When once they couldn’t wait to tell their friends about Christ, now they purposefully have few (if any) non-Christian friends and no sense of urgency about the state of the lost.
When once they praised the outward focus of their church that brought them to Christ, now they complain about it not meeting their needs, feeding their spiritual stomachs or serving their spiritual self-interest.
When once they celebrated every lost coin found, lost sheep recovered and prodigal son returned, now they are like the older brother who wonders why their father isn’t throwing a party for them.
This is far from the only dynamic that can fade after a baptism. I’ve seen many patterns over the years, such as the reversal of the humility that led to the act of baptism itself. For example, where once they were only too ready to admit brokenness by entering the water, now they engage in spiritual image control by trying to appear like they can walk on it.
But it’s the loss of passion, loss of commitment, loss of urgency in regard to the mission that is the bitterest irony for me. If only we could all remember how far we once were from God (Eph. 1:11-12) and how serious it is to forget our first love (Rev. 2:4).
Let’s just say that when it comes to baptism,
… I wish no one would ever dry off.
James Emery White
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.