We love personal pronouns. We iMessage people on our iPhones while setting up profiles to personalize our experience on Netflix, Amazon, Instagram and even the grocery store.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The language we use reveals what we value. And considering the language of our day — we value individuality. This isn’t a secular phenomenon. We use the same language in the church when we talk about a “personal relationship with Jesus.” Even as believers, we place a high priority on personal responsibility and personal choice.
All of this is great. But I wonder if our emphasis on individuality blinds us to the way our personal decisions impact people all around us. For example, imagine a friend or a family member takes on a new job. That decision may impact that person’s access to resources. Maybe they hang out less. Maybe they have more money and carry more of the group’s financial burden. Maybe they are more stressed, and family, friends and roommates feel the weight of that stress.
We don’t make decisions in a vacuum, and every “personal” choice we make has implications for those closest to us. And this can be a really awesome thing.
Over the last several years, I have had the chance to spend time with people who are deciding to be baptized. And I’m starting to see a pattern.
Baptism spreads. I’ve seen it spread through families, friend groups and small groups. A child may decide to get baptized and the next spring we see that child’s mom and dad in the pool. Or a teen may take the plunge and the next year their younger sibling and members of their small group have signed up. More than once, we’ve seen several people from one small group decide to go public with their faith. This is more than a coincidence.
It is interesting to think that when the resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples, he commanded them to baptize. At the end of the book of Matthew (Matthew 28:7), an angel set up a special rendezvous between Jesus and those who had been his followers and friends. One of the two instructions Jesus gives them for making disciples is to baptize people (Matthew 28:19-20).
Jesus knew what he was doing. He wanted to set his disciples up for success. He wanted the community of believers to remain aware of his presence “to the very end of the age.” So, he instructed them to baptize.
I still don’t understand exactly how baptism spreads. Maybe it’s the Holy Spirit moving through one person and speaking to and through family members and friends. Maybe it is peer pressure. Maybe baptism is viral in nature, and we can get a good idea of where we caught it but can’t totally explain the mystery.
Whatever is going on, faith decisions move through families and friend groups. I suspect what we observe is just the beginning. When someone steps into a pool or is sprinkled on a Sunday morning, we may never know who is looking on feeling challenged, encouraged or called back to faith. And when one person decides that they are going all in, we may never be able to measure the way that person’s decision renewed the community’s passion for the lost, nurtured a sense of unity or deepened our collective resolve to stay committed to the mission.
All across the world, when disciples make faith professions and when a community celebrates baptism, we witness personal decisions that have far-reaching implications for the community of believers. As we continue to make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them, may we be more and more aware that Jesus is with us always, “to the very end of the age.”
View original post here.
Justine Tegen serves as the discipleship pastor at ALIVE Wesleyan Church in Central, South Carolina.