Suggestions on the Baptismal Service

Efficient Evangelistic Methods and Pastoral Technique.

By J. L. SHULER, Instructor in Evangelism, S.D.A. Theological Seminary

Baptism is a very sacred ordinance, and should be conducted in keeping with its sacredness. It represents the death and burial of the believer with his Lord. Hence a solemn and reverential spirit should char­acterize every detail of its administration. The Spirit of prophecy gives this instruction:

"The administrator should make this an occasion of solemn, sacred influence upon those who are looking on, that it should have an elevating effect upon those who witness it, and not be placed on a level with common things."—Mrs. E. G. White, in Review and Herald, March 5, 1895.

"As a Christian submits to the solemn rite of bap­tism, the three highest powers in the universe—the Rather, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—place their approval on his act, pledging themselves to exert their power in his behalf as he strives to honor God." —E. G. White Letter 53, 1904.

Baptism marks one of the greatest days in a person's life. The way we conduct the serv­ice determines to a large degree how much it will mean to those who are baptized. The en­tire service should be well planned in every detail, that there be no confusion. We are advised that "the best of order should be pre­served, and nothing clumsy or uncouth should be seen in this holy ordinance."—Mrs. E. G. White, in Review and Herald, March 5, 1895.

The evangelist who conducts the baptismal service in an impressive manner will find it very helpful in leading the interested persons who witness it to make their own decision to follow the Lord all the way.

A special sermon on the significance of bap­tism, with the candidates sitting on the front seats, will add a touch of impressiveness and distinction to the preliminary part of the serv­ice. At the close of the sermon, the candidates are called forward to stand before the altar for a prayer of consecration. This helps to impress all with the thought that baptism means a full surrender to the Lord. After the prayer, the candidates retire to their re­spective dressing rooms to prepare to enter the pool. While this is being done, the musical director leads the congregation in singing good spiritual songs. This helps to preserve the spirit of order and worship.

In a tabernacle it is helpful to have curtains that can be drawn so as to completely cover the front of the platform. These can be drawn the moment the consecration prayer is finished, as the candidates pass to their dress­ing rooms. In this way no disorder is observed in connection with the removal of the desk. the chairs, or the cover to the tank, and other essential preparations that may be needed to make the pool ready. These curtains are not parted again until the first person or persons are in the pool ready to be lowered into the water. As soon as a candidate is brought up from the water, the curtains are closed again, and not opened until the next person is in position in the pool, ready to be baptized.

In this way there is no exposure of any can­didate to the audience in entering or leaving the pool. Refined people appreciate this pro­vision, and it adds much to the dignity of the occasion. A sketch is attached herewith show­ing how these curtains can be fastened on wires with pulleys, so that some assigned per­son out of sight behind the side wall of the rostrum can open and close the curtains as desired. It is best to use baptismal robes for all candidates, of both sexes. White robes may be used for the women, and black for the men. The Spirit of prophecy advises the use of robes.

"When the ordinance of baptism is administered, the candidates for baptism should be provided with robes appropriate for the occasion. They should be well-shaped garments, made of suitable material."­Ibid.

In order that the service shall move for­ward in proper order, the candidates should receive instruction on how to come prepared for the service, and also how to conduct them­selves in the water. This may be given by the use of a little card (see advertisement, page 41), printed on both sides as follows:

This card is given to the candidate a day or two before the baptism takes place. I fol­low the practice of distributing these cards to the baptismal class on the night when they appear before the church board, and are ap­proved for baptism. This card is very convenient in the case of a minister visiting a woman for a final checkup for baptism. If she is ready and expects to be baptized in the com­ing baptism, he can hand her the card as he leaves the home, and thus observe proper ethics by not having to discuss with her how she should come dressed for the occasion.

The baptismal instructions on the reverse side of the card are helpful in keeping the can­didate from strangling or coughing, as a result of water's entering his mouth when he is put under the water. When people are told be­forehand how and when to hold their breath, and how to conduct themselves in the water, it makes possible a beautiful baptism, and strangling, coughing, and struggling on the part of the candidate are eliminated in nearly every case.

We think it wise not only to place this in­struction on the card we give them beforehand, but also to repeat the instruction to them orally in the dressing rooms, just before the first one enters the pool. In addition to the points here mentioned, we ask each one to bring a man's handkerchief to the service, and to hand that to the minister as he enters the pool. This I place in my top front coat pocket, so that just as soon as I raise the person from the water, I can hand him this dry handker­chief to wipe the water from his eyes. These are little things, but they add that finer touch which makes for an impressive and beautiful baptismal service. In the instruction given be­fore entering the pool, the can­didates are told not to pull the head forward. This avoids com­plications, a n d mak es possible putting them under the water gently and grad­ually.

In case of hus­band and wife and children, mother and daughter, father and son, or two brothers or sis­ters, we often take them into the pool together. One is baptized first, and then stands aside in the pool while the other is baptized. The curtains are closed, and they leave the pool without passing in view of the audience.

There are three matters to keep in mind in placing the candidate in the tank ready for lowering him into the water. The candidate should be standing at the front of the tank next to the audience. This will place him between the minister and the audience. He should be placed up close to the wall of the tank, so as to give the full length of the pool for the lowering of the body. This will be especially necessary in the case of men who are six feet tall or more. The water should be about three and a half feet deep.

The candidate stands with his hands locked high up on his chest as the baptismal ritual is repeated. Then the minister takes hold of his clothing at the nape of the neck with one hand, and places his other hand on both hands of the convert, and lowers him very slowly into the water, just as a casket is lowered into a grave. It is shocking to see the way some Ministers plunge the converts into the water. This detracts from the sacredness of the act. The upper hand of the minister is used to press the candidate's body gently under the water, so that it is entirely covered. The other hand, which grasps the robe or clothing at the neck, is used to raise him up from the water after the burial. Proper assistants should be pro­vided to help the converts prepare for the-burial in the pool, and to help them in and out of the -tank.

In the Ministy of March, 1940, there ap­peared an article which explained how an in­expensive canvas baptistery could be installed in tents and tabernacles. It is well for the evangelist to be acquainted with this plan.

(See page 45 for canvas baptistery advertise­ment.)

At the next church service after a baptism, I have the newly baptized ones voted into the church, and give them the hand of fellowship. Those who have been baptized are called for­ward, and, while "Blest Be the Tie That Binds" is sung, the ministers, elders, and Bible workers pass along the line of baptized con­verts, and extend to them a welcome into the body of Christ. This gives a touch of love and warmth that the new converts greatly appreciate, and is a Scriptural practice. (See Gal: 2:9.) In the smaller churches, all the members may be asked to file around and join in extending the hand of fellowship, but in the larger churches, extending the hand of fellow­ship must be limited to a smaller group.

We follow the practice of passing along this line of baptized persons, after the last worker has given them the hand of fellowship, and presenting each one with a baptismal cer­tificate, (See page 41.) All of these matters may be studied with profit, that we may under God make. our •ministry as dignified, impres­sive, and helpful as possible.

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By J. L. SHULER, Instructor in Evangelism, S.D.A. Theological Seminary

February 1941

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