Sometimes church people do things that don’t make a lot of sense to non-church people.
Exhibit A: Backtizing.
Last Saturday I was snuggling up with my four year old daughter, a requisite part of our weekend. Out of the blue she said, “Daddy, sometimes you backtize people.”
“Um, I do…what exactly?”
“You backtize people. [At this point she starts acting it out in sort of an evangelical charades moment.] You take them and you put them under the water.”
“Ooohhh. Yes. What does it mean to backtize somebody?”
“It means you put your hand on their back while you put ’em under the water.”
I don’t care who you are, that’s flippin’ adorable, and I’ll correct her nuanced understanding when she’s 40.
Exhibit B: Public Drowning
Not long ago I was in one of our services during a backtizi…um…baptism celebration. If you’re not a regular part of the Summit, it will be helpful to know that we will often set up what is about to happen during baptism. We’ll explain what it is and why we’re doing it, then we’ll often begin worshipping by singing, and – in the middle of the song – will show the baptisms on screen. It’s a great way to celebrate life change as we make much of Jesus.
Except in this case, the explanation never happened.
And so there we were, singing our little hearts out, when all of a sudden the baptism tank filled the screen and baptisms commenced. And that’s all well and good, unless you’ve never seen it before. If you’re a non-church person, you might be running a very understandable narrative in your head:
“These songs have a good beat. I wonder if I can dance to them? Looks like they misspelled that word on the slide. Hang on – what are they doing? Where did they get the hot tub? Why is he putting that guy under the water? SHOULD I CALL THE POLICE? I knew this was a cult, I didn’t expect the human sacrifice on my first visit.”
See what I mean? Church people don’t always make sense to non-church people. My four year old believes that it’s called “backtizing” because – in her mind – that’s what we’re holding as we put them under the water. To an uninformed first time guest, the celebration of baptism might look more like Baptist-sponsored waterboarding (see also: Church Business Meetings).
That’s why we should explain ourselves as often as possible. When something has the potential to be unclear, confusing, or concerning to a guest, we owe it to them to bring some clarity. (Check out Six Times to Talk to Your Guests.) That builds trust and rapport with outsiders, and helps them become insiders.
Where do you need to bring some clarity this weekend?
By the way, the baptism script that should’ve happened? It goes a little something like this:
“In just a moment we are going to celebrate the act of baptism. Baptism is a picture of the gospel, and we do it to remind one another of the gospel when we gather together. There is nothing special about this water. It is not what saves you, but it is an outward sign of the inward work that Christ has completed for us, and the way an individual publicly identifies themselves as a believer in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The act of baptism is a picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, as well as our own death to sin and resurrection to new life. So every baptism is a celebration of salvation.”
[And then to the candidate, we ask two questions:]
“Do you believe that Jesus has done everything necessary to save you? Are you willing to go wherever He sends you to go and do whatever He asks you to do?
“Based on your profession of faith, I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
(photo credit: Brett Seay)