If I have heard it once I have heard it a thousand times: so-called reformed Christians tripping over themselves with apology after apology about how poorly the reformed church does evangelism. Related to this is the tried and true self-deprecation: we need to see more adult baptisms. Perhaps the one that turns my stomach the most is when people say things like, “the evangelicals win people to Christ and we disciple them.” Not true. None of it. I’m calling what needs to be called. Here I’m going to challenge the assertion that the reformed church is bad at evangelism by thinking about baptism.
It has been my pleasure and privilege to baptize more adult converts into Christ and his church than I ever would have imagined when I became the pastor of New Life. However, my unscientific poll tells me that the majority of baptisms here have been of infants. For some, even those who would gladly be referred to as reformed and confessional, this is not a good thing. More adult baptisms are what we need, they say. Back to my unscientific analysis of data for a minute – generally speaking, it has been my analysis that folks who talk like this have a scale by which they judge baptisms. Infant baptism, good. Older children (like when a family transfers in from a non-reformed church) baptized by profession of faith, better. College student/young professional baptized on profession of faith, more better. Middle age and up, even better than more better. You get the point. The problem with this is that people who talk and think like this unnecessarily create levels of baptism, unfortunately reducing the beauty of infant baptism, and unwittingly undermining baptism itself. Infant baptism is baptism. And therefore we should rejoice in the same manner and with the same passion and emotion at every baptism. Even speaking of “infant baptism” subtly undermines baptism.
When people talk like this they miss what is actually taking place during the baptism of an infant. When an infant is baptized we are doing evangelism and we are making disciples (Matt. 28:18). As Peter Leithart has put it: all baptisms are infant baptisms. The reason for this is that, “Baptism sets a new trajectory, initiates a new beginning, but every beginning is the beginning of something.”
“the evangelicals win people to Christ and we disciple them.” Not true. None of it.
This morning we rejoice at the work of God in these waters as we witness another baptism, another disciple made, another Christian born, another member added to Christ’s church.
The reformed church not good at evangelism? Yeah, right. From this perspective we are actually quite good at evangelism.