Baptism Central

That’s the name of a DVD that arrived in my mail today from the Florida Baptist Convention’s Evangelism Strategy Department. The subtitle is, “Unlock the Meaning of Baptism!” The blurb on the cover says, “This DVD will answer many questions children (and even adults) are afraid to ask.” It is a high quality production (obviously done on a Macintosh!) that is designed to help prepare children for the ordinance of baptism. Most of the actors are children, with the exception of “Field Agent Harper” (see below), who looks to be in his twenties. Practical things are covered, like what to wear, what to expect when going under water, be careful not to slip on wet floors, etc. But theological things are covered as well.

(The DVD opens with 2 girls on swings)

First girl: “Hey Hannah, you wanna come to my baptism Sunday?”

Second girl: “What’s a baptism?”

First girl:”Baptism is the celebration that I asked Jesus into my heart.”

“A baptism is kind of like a birthday party. A birthday party celebrates the day you were born into your family. Baptism celebrates the day you were born into God’s family.”

(cut to a man and boy standing in a baptistry; the man is “Field Agent Harper”)

Field Agent Harper: “Hey! I look good.”

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(later Field Agent Harper appears in the baptistry again, this time in a wetsuit with a snorkel and goggles, to show how baptism is to be performed)

Among other things that Field Agent Harper says is that “the pastor will normally ask you one question: and that question is, ‘Have you trusted Jesus as your personal Savior?'”

At this point, Field Agent Harper–wetsuit, snorkel and all–“baptizes” a boy “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

The desire to help children (and adults) understand and prepare for baptism is commendable. But this DVD strikes me as one more example of the quest for relevance resulting in the loss of significance. Baptism is a vital ordinance–sacrament, if you will–of the church. Many of our forefathers suffered greatly at the hands of persecutors because of their commitment to observe it according to the New Testament pattern. To see it being treated so flippantly detracts from its meaning and purpose.

Marshall McLuhan’s famous dictum, “the medium is the message,” is hardly given a thought in our rush to relevance. How many times have you heard that we must change our methods without diminishing our messsage, as if methods are completely indifferent things? The next time you meet someone who believes that any medium is appropriate to convey any message ask him to convey Handel’s Messiah using smoke signals.

But perhaps this Baptism Central DVD was an inevitable extension of the wave started 5 or 6 years ago by First Baptist Church of Springdale, Arkansas. A former Disney designer was hired by the church to design a new children’s worship area that included two sets, Toon Town and Planet 45. Included in the design is a special baptistry which is built in a fire engine. When a child is baptized, the sirens sound and confetti is fired out of cannons. I am guessing that this probably helps children overcome any hesitations that they to be baptized.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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