By Allen Close
After thirty four years in ministry, I can still get asked questions that catch me off guard. Recently, I was getting ready for a workout at CrossFit Staunton in Virginia when a woman asked me if I would baptize her four-year-old. I’m pretty sure my face betrayed my concern since all thirty four years of preaching has been in Churches of Christ — where we don’t baptize small children. My mind was suddenly racing. I felt the pressure of strong beliefs I grew up with, but also felt the quandary of not wanting to tell her to go find someone else. After a lightning fast prayer, I asked if we could talk after the workout. That delay was a blessing from God; during the workout, I considered how my discipleship cohort would deal with this.
I’m part of a discipleship cohort that uses the material and structure provided by Mission Alive. For months now we have been meeting weekly to learn to listen to God together. We listen to God through scripture, prayer, and mission. During my workout I was able to use the rhythm we have learned to pray for God’s help and to listen for his answer.
After a series of burpees, wall balls, and dead lifts, I was ready to engage her question again. What I soon realized is she did not mean baptize the way I was envisioning it. I was thinking we would go to the Church building and immerse him in the water. What she really wanted was some kind of an anointing or blessing. I thanked God that I had not brushed her off with a safe but negative answer. I knew I could do this.
A month later, I drove to her parent’s farm with a small vial of water and some verses I planned to use. When I drove up, between the horse barn and the swimming pool, I saw about twenty people gathered. Some of them were Catholic, some were from some other church, but most did not regularly attend anywhere. I began by talking about how Jesus felt about children and his desire for them to come to him. I also got to talk about his love for each one of us, baptism by immersion, and the fear we all feel as parents that we might mess up our children. Finally, I was able to talk about the day when this boy would decide on his own that he wants Jesus to be his Lord and to be baptized into that lordship. Later that evening we all went to a restaurant where I had even more opportunities to witness for God.
As I look back on this day, I thank God that He had prepared me for this by putting me in a group that would help me learn to rely directly on God and his communication with me. Opportunities like this are precious and I am thankful that I did not let it pass me by. And later, when I shared this with my cohort, we all rejoiced together. Hallelujah!