Nurturing the Faithful
I remember my Pastor’s Class. I remember sitting in Brotherhood Hall with Todd Henderson, Allison Murfin, Dave Myers, Scott Gotschall, and others, listening to Reverend West. We learned about the history of Christianity, the history of our denomination, and the history of this church. We learned what it meant to be a Christian and to be an active part of our church.
I remember sitting with Reverend West in his office at the end of the Class series. At that time, he asked each of us privately if we felt ready to be baptized, to accept Christ into our lives, and to become a member of the church. He talked about what the baptism would be like and how we would do our first communion.
He promised us the water in the baptismal would be warm…
I remember the baptism and how the water was most definitely not warm. I audibly gasped when I first stepped in and Reverend West might have “shushed” me…
As he talked about me to the congregation, he picked me up by the elbows so everybody could see me since I was so short compared to the rest of the kids in the class. When he dunked me in the water, I lost my footing and he had to lift me up so I could stand again. That made the symbolism of “Life, Death, and Resurrection” a little more real… maybe too real at the time.
After the baptism, we changed our clothes and came up front to take our first communion and get our certificates to commemorate the day.
After the service, we stood in the receiving line, shaking hands and getting hugs from everyone that came through. Whether we knew them or not…
I share this story with you to tell you this.
This moment, this event, means something to the children that go through it. It is not taken lightly and they do not forget about it as soon as it is over.
The Pastor’s Class and Baptism is our opportunity to follow the command of Jesus as he said in Matthew’s Gospel, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (19: 13-15).
As a congregation, our roles in the lives of the children of this church are varied, but have the same essential purpose. We may be Sunday School teachers, choir directors, youth group advisors, or other individuals directly involved in the youth programs. Or we may be the Elders, Trustees, Deacons, and other members serving the church. We may even just be the individual he or she sees each Sunday during the service that says “Good Morning” during the Passing of the Peace. We serve as the role models and examples for what leading a Christ-like life should be. By doing so, we show the younger generation what they can do as a part of the body of Christ.
What we should strive for is to show that getting baptized and becoming part of the church is just the beginning. As the seed thrown in good soil, our children should grow and thrive in an environment that feeds them and nurtures them. As they develop in their faith, we need to be ready to help them use their gifts and talents in a way that helps them become men and women of God. We should empower them to learn, provoking them to ask questions about their Christianity and teaching them how to be faithful in a world that can be challenging. We should inspire them to do good, be kind, and serve those around them.
As a man that grew up in this church, I could go for pages on the number of people in this church that have helped me become who I am and how I have looked to you as role models and mentors for my own life, not only in terms of faith, but as a husband, father, and friend.
I won’t today. Suffice to say that this congregation has been substantial in allowing me to grow in my own faith and has challenged me to be better and do more.
Now that I am older, and especially now that I have my own children growing up here, I look to see what I can do for the next in line. As we celebrate the decision that Lane has made to be baptized, let us re-examine our own lives and dedicate ourselves to be here for him and his family. Be a presence in his life; be a source of support and encouragement; be an example for what he can become. Ask him about his family and friends; ask about school; ask him what he likes to do in his free time. Show interest in his life so that he knows we care about him and what is important to him. In that way, we will be showing him the love of God and nurturing his faith as he takes this vital step in his Christian journey.