Wednesday, July 07, 2010

440 Baptisms

Over the July 3/4 weekend my church baptized 440 people in our parking lot.

We had two swimming pools set up to baptize people after each of our 5 services. And teams of people checking everyone in, helping them through lines, into the pools, out of the pools, and of course doing the dunking.

I could marvel at smoothly the whole event went. How chaotic and panicked people were leading up to it, but how everything worked out. How it was supposed to rain all weekend, and never sprinkled for more than a few minutes...until it poured right after we all went inside after everyone was baptized. How we managed to coordinate everything.

I'm thankful for what God did to make this event happen. Don't get me wrong. But what I'm marveling at instead is what happened to the people who were a part of it.

See, I was lucky enough to help in one of the pools all I saw a lot of people get baptized. People in their 70's, dads with their sons, couples, best friends, entire families of 9 people getting baptized at a time, teenagers, kids...people who had signed up weeks ago and those who just felt that day they needed to do it.

The reactions on people's faces were incredible.

Everyone was different. Some people kept very stoic/serious about it, others were laughing and cheering. Some were incredibly nervous...or even embarrassed about what they were doing. Still there were some who were so emotional about the experience, they couldn't contain themselves. People were crying.

Lots of people.

It wasn't sad...just emotional.

This was a huge deal for people. For some it was cementing the start of their following Jesus. For others it was a step in their faith they had been putting off for years...or decades. For others it was a symbol that they were getting "back" into it. That they had ignored God long enough and weren't going to do it anymore. Every person experienced being baptized differently, because they all brought different circumstances into it. This moment may have been similar...but their stories leading up to it, and the stories they will live out afterwards are all drastically different.

Everyone was in a hurry, yes. There were lots of people, of course. People who came to service that weekend JUST to get baptized. People who were doing this on the way to their car before they left. Volunteers who were already giving their time that weekend, rushing out to be baptized between services and running back inside to get back to their "job" for the rest of the day. I know our drummer, sound guy & director all got baptized, for example.

People were really empathizing with each other. Feeling what others were going through. Though they all had different stories, everyone was experiencing this one event together. Even those who weren't actually getting baptized.

Here's my favorite picture from the event. I missed this in person because it was away from the pools. But I can't look at it without experiencing a whole wave of emotion.

It's funny, when you talk about baptism it seems natural for people to want to start arguing. To start claiming how to be baptized, why to be baptized etc etc.

But at this event, you don't see that.

People don't concern themselves with debates about immersion vs sprinkling vs dipping vs pouring vs spraying with a hose.

There is little concern about "well, you know baptism doesn't actually save you, Jesus saves you and baptism is just an outward sign of the change he's already made in your heart."

People don't care for the disclaimers and legalese when you're caught up in the experience. They don't care about making sure your child is the right age, or that you've appropriately 'repented' or anything else we tack on to a simple request from our savior to go and be baptized.

It's almost like you don't have time for that nonsense when you're busy hugging a friend, child, parent or even stranger who just came out of the pool. You have little interest in "making your point" or "being right" while you're laughing or crying with someone.

I think that's part of the beauty as well.