Are you or someone you love thinking about baptism? If so, that's awesome! We love to see individuals drawing closer to God in Christ and showing the world what He means to them. This guide will hopefully fill in a few details about the significance of baptism and how we carry that out at New Vision Fellowship.
What is baptism all about, anyways?
Here at New Vision, we celebrate baptism as one of two ordinances that are dear to us (the other is the Lord's Supper). An ordinance is simply something that our Lord Jesus has ordained or designed for His church to do as a reminder of His loving work for us. With some of His final words to us before He went back to heaven, Jesus commanded His followers to: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). To baptize means to immerse something – in this case, a disciple of Jesus – in water.
Did you know that Jesus Himself was baptized by John the Baptist (see Luke 3:21-22)? He did this to set an example for and to identify Himself with those who would follow in His footsteps. So, as we are baptized, we show others that we are linking our lives with Jesus and His church (Rom. 6:3-11). That's why we, as a church, in obedience to our Lord's command, baptize believers in Christ by immersing them in water upon their confession of faith in Him.
If you have believed in Jesus as your Savior and Lord, your faith is the reason you are saved. And you're as saved as you'll ever be. Being baptized will not make you any more saved, nor will it seal your salvation. Believers are baptized simply because that's what Jesus tells them to do and because they want to show the rest of the world that they have decided to follow Jesus. Or to think of it another way: baptism doesn't save any person; people are baptized to obey the God who has saved them and to show what He has done in saving them. You don't need baptism to wash away your sins; Jesus has already done that for those who have believed in Him. We are saved by grace through faith in the work Christ has done on our behalf – not as a result of any of our own works (Eph. 2:8-10). That includes the work of baptism.
That's why we like to describe baptism as a visible testimony. It's one of God's pictures. Think of how a person immersed in water through baptism is laid into the water – you might even think of it as burying someone in a watery grave and raising them back up out of that grave. And in baptism, that's what we're saying – we're showing off for Jesus to say “I have now died to my former ways and pursuits as someone who was far from God, and I have been raised to walk in a new life filled with a hope and purpose that Jesus has given me.” It's also a way of showing “Though I may die and be buried one day, just as Jesus arose from the grave, I will too.” Likewise, just as the water a person is lowered into in baptism surrounds that person and washes things away, baptism tells the watching world that “I am now covered with the righteousness of Christ and my sins have been washed away.” That's what we mean when we say that baptism is a visible testimony – by being baptized, we're showing others what God has done for us.
How does New Vision carry out baptism
Baptisms at New Vision may happen in our baptistry in the church building, or they may happen at the Madison River Park just down the road from the church. In either case, we'd like for you to consider sharing your testimony as a part of baptism. Don't worry – we're not out to embarrass you. In fact, we encourage you to write out your testimony beforehand and recruit someone to read it for you just before you are baptized. Look for more details on that below.
Baptism in the church building
Baptisms in the church building often begin with our pastor stepping into the baptistry alone to explain the significance of baptism before calling in those who are being baptized one at a time. When your name is called, volunteers will help you into and out of the tank. Don't worry – we keep the baptistry water warm, as we have a heater that we gets turned on the evening before.
After baptism, the same individuals who helped you in will help you back up the stairs and out of the water. Grab a towel from the helpers at the top of the stairs to dry off as best you can. Then go down the hall to the men's or women's restroom. We'll have folks mopping up after you, so don't worry about leaving a trail of water as you go. Use the restrooms to change into some dry clothes – someone should be guarding the door to keep others out while you change. We'll also have another towel for you ready in the restroom so that you can finish drying off as you change. After changing, take a seat with your guests near the front of the worship center, as we'll give folks a chance to celebrate with you and take photos after the service.
Baptism at the river
Some Sundays, we make plans to go down to the river once morning worship is over. When we do this, we use the Lindsey Bridge public access to the Dan River at Madison River Park just a little way south of the church. There by the river, we may sing a few songs while we wait for everyone to arrive. If you're planning to be baptized, you should find the pastor and stay close to him by the water. When all is ready, he'll wade in and call you and others who are being baptized in one at a time. You will find a volunteer or two who is ready to help ensure you can walk into the river with steady support.
After baptism, the same individuals who helped you in will help you out and will provide you with towels.
In the water at either place
Whether you're in the church building or in the river, once you are in the water, our pastor will introduce you. Then, he will introduce the person who is sharing your testimony or give you the chance to personally share if you prefer. After testimony, our pastor will ask these questions:
- Have you entrusted your life to Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord?
- Do you desire to follow the Lord in baptism in obedience to His command?
Assuming you answer those questions with a “yes,” our pastor will say: “Then it is my joy to baptize you my brother/sister in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” He will lower you into the waters and bring you back up, saying “buried with Christ in the likeness of His death; raised to walk in newness of life.”
After you've been baptized, you may want to raise your arms in victory or praise God in some other way. We say – have at it! This is a grand celebration. Jesus has saved your soul. Don't be afraid to party!
We know some folks can be a little anxious when thinking about the moment of baptism. Let us assure you – there's nothing to worry about. We haven't drowned anyone yet, and we expect our stellar track record to stay that way! Still, these tips may build your comfort and courage as you step into the waters:
- If you're being baptized in the baptistry, stand in front of the steps, facing the steps
- If you're being baptized in the river, expect the pastor to lower you with your head facing upstream so that water won't rush into your nose.
- Put one hand up to your chin with your elbow straight down your core. Grab the wrist of that hand with your other arm. This will give the pastor a good place to hold on to you and pull you up. He will pace his other hand on your back, so you'll be well supported.
- If you'd like, you can hold your nose. Just take in a breath and relax.
- As you are lowered into the water, simply squat down, lean back, and try to keep your feet planted on the bottom, as this will help you to return to standing easier once you've been immersed.
- Don't panic! We've got you!
Preparing for Baptism
Now, are you ready to be baptized? If so, check out the following steps:
- Contact our church office to set up a time when you can be baptized.
- Write out your testimony of faith in Christ and share it with our pastor to review before the day of your baptism. A testimony simply describes 1) what your life was like before Christ, 2) what made you realize that you needed Christ, 3) how you came to trust in Christ, 4) and what is different now that you've trusted in Christ. We even provide a “Preparing a Baptismal Testimony” template that might help you as you prepare your testimony.
- Recruit someone to read your testimony on the day when you will be baptized and let the pastor or church office know who that will be in advance.
- Wear whatever you're comfortable with to be baptized in. We simply request that you be mindful of the importance of modesty and how certain clothing can be revealing when wet.
- Bring a change of clothes and (if you desire) a hairdryer.
- Invite your family and friends to observe your testimony and to celebrate with you!
- If you'd like, recruit someone to take photos or record this special event.
If you have any questions or concerns, just give us a call at the church (336.427.6264), reach out via social media, or email us (email@example.com). We're here to help! And we are excited to celebrate what God has done in your life! To Him be all the glory.