Baptism Is Not the Goal
Two gas company employees were out checking meters. They parked their truck at the end of an alley and worked their way to the other end. At the last house, a woman was looking out her window and watched as the two men checked her gas meter. When the men had finished, the older supervisor challenged his younger co-worker to a foot race down the alley and back to the truck. So they took off. As they were racing back to the truck they realized that the lady from the house was huffing and puffing right behind them. They stopped and asked her what was wrong. Gasping for breath she said, “When I see two gas men running full speed away from a house, I figure I had better run too.” The lady didn’t know why she was running. She just figured she had better join in the race. Her mindset was: Run now. Ask questions later!
In the church, we often garner the mentality of baptize them now, ask questions later. We don’t focus enough on the disciple-making process. We focus on the 5 steps of salvation, but not so much on what it means to be a runner. We view the finish line as the baptistery. When, in truth, that’s just the starting line. What happens, all too often, is that we end up with a lot of baptized individuals who drop out of the race because they were never properly trained.
If we think that making a disciple is only about baptism, then we have failed miserably in our approach. Without a doubt, faith, repentance, confession, and baptism are all essential, but there is more. When Jesus gave His Apostles The Great Commission He stated: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…(Mt. 28:19).” That’s where we often put a period. We stop right there. But Jesus had more to say. He continues: “…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (v. 20).” Disciple-making is not about dunking them and sending them on their way. Baptism is the starting line. Once an individual arises from the waters of baptism a new creature in Christ, the start gun fires and the race is on.
Have you ever run in a race? If so, did someone blindfold you, escort you to the starting line, and say, “When you hear the gun go off, start running?” My guess is that’s not what happened. If you’ve ever run a race, you did so with the knowledge of how far you had to run. You knew where the finish line was. You knew something about the course. You probably even did some research as to the terrain and, perhaps, even paid attention to what the weather would be like the day of the race. Not only that, more than likely, you trained heavily for the race. You prepared by running similar distances on your own as you tried to build up your endurance. Maybe you even had a coach to push you. When we simply run through the steps of salvation, immerse an individual, then send them on their way, we’re throwing them into a race with a blindfold on and telling them, “Good luck! I hope you reach the finish line!” As all Christian runners can attest to, there’s a whole lot more to be learned after baptism.
Being a disciple is for those who have weighed the cost of commitment (Lk. 14:25-33), who have surrendered their lives to Christ (Mt. 16:24 & 25), and have resolved to live life according to His will (Mt. 7:24). It’s not just about getting baptized. The true goal is set forth in the first five words of The Great Commission— “Go therefore and make disciples.”