Preparing Converts for Baptism

Advice shared at the Northern Union Conference, Minneapolis, December 29, 1942, to January 5, 1943.

By WILLARD A. DESSAIN, Pastor, First Church, St. Paul, Minnesota

An argument in favor of thorough prepara­tion for baptism is hardly necessary with a group of Seventh-day Adventist min­isters of the gospel. Thorough preparation does not of necessity mean that the candidate has been in a baptismal class for a long time. It is not de­pendent upon how much of our life-giving truth the convert may have heard, how many books he has read on our message, how many Sabbath meetings he has attended. But it does depend on how much he has absorbed of that in which he has been instructed and on his willing­ness to embrace and practice those truths.

Necessary instruction should include the basic fundamentals of our message. The Sabbath, the advent, the sanctuary, the judgment, the state of man in death, the millennium, tithing, the Spirit of prophecy, and other kindred truths should form the general background of every well-established believer in our system of truth.

Perhaps the time-tested method of forming a Bible class in which prospective candidates meet regularly for baptism, remains the sound­est, safest, and most effective method of estab­lishing new converts in the truth. It excels in effectiveness for several reasons:(1) It re­views the message with the reader in graduated quantities. (2) It spaces the periods of study without possibility or semblance of cramming or overstuffing. (3) It creates an appetite for systematic study of God's precious word. (4) It affords the reader the priceless opportunity to ask questions. It acquaints the candidates with the minister and Bible instructor. (5) It affords the minister and Bible instructor the op­portunity to observe the convert at close range, to determine whether he is sincere in his in­quiry into our truth and whether he is really attempting to practice what he is accepting. (6) It affords the candidate the privilege of associating with others who are also newly ac­cepting the truth. Thus the convert feels that he is not alone in breaking from former forms, creeds, and habits. This is a source of great strength and stimulation to him, for "iron sharpens iron."

The time for a Bible class to meet is not always an easy matter to arrange. The most convenient time may be at the close of the Sabbath service, when instead of the usual hand­shaking at the church door, the minister will call the class into his study or some quiet room and immediately begin to teach. Sometimes a class can be arranged to meet before or right after the Wednesday night prayer meeting, or the class may want to meet in the pastor's home, weekly or more often. It is always well to spend five minutes in reviewing what was covered in the previous lesson for the benefit of any who may have been absent. The date for baptism should be planned long ahead.

It is often found that some candidates cannot possibly arrange to attend the baptismal class. They may be too busy ; their home duties may not allow them to come ; they may live too far away ; or they may be too timid, as is often the case. Then one must resort to the God-given privilege of the personal Bible study. Hundreds of souls would be outside the ark of safety today if it had not been that the truth was carried into their very homes. This is a work that both pastor and Bible instructor can join in with profit. Pity the pastor who is so busy preaching and reading and preparing sermons, that he has not time to open the word of God to inquirers in the quiet precincts of their homes ! Paul, great preacher that he was, never wearied of going from home to home to open the Word.

Gaining Entrance to Homes

Not a few have difficulty in getting into the homes of the people for Bible studies. It is an art that grows with practice and experience. We can seldom succeed unless a previous ac­quaintance with the individual has been formed. Often a visit may be turned into a Bible study; then if the individual shows promise and inter­est, the visit is repeated ; a time is set for the next visit; and a course of Bible studies devel­ops. In every case, tact, kindness, and consid­eration must be exercised, or the prospect may be gone.

In preparing a candidate who has a previous knowledge of our truth, it is highly commend­able that either the pastor or Bible instructor sit down with him and thoroughly review the cardinal points of our faith. Not only should these be reviewed, but the candidate should thor­oughly understand them and consent to them. To follow this procedure would eliminate bap­tizing those who show weakness on tithing, the Spirit of prophecy, health reform, or some other point. Having candidates publicly consent to these and other fundamental points of faith at the time of their induction into the church, is the best method. This procedure builds confidence and makes for more lasting results.

Much could be said about the importance of being acquainted with one's converts, for dif­ferent personalities respond to different meth­ods. Wise are the soul winners who put elas­ticity into their technique of winning people. Some souls must be hurried along. To wait and linger means to allow the enemy to sow seeds of doubt and distrust. These seeds even­tually spring up and choke the Word. Others are deliberate by nature, slow to make up their minds, tardy to make a decision. These cannot be hurried. To press them would be disastrous. Some are argumentative by nature. Time must be allowed to let the Word satisfy their every question. Sometimes the candidates have per­sonal problems that greatly puzzle and per­plex them. This causes them to be very timid about taking the important step of Christian baptism. The wise worker will work with them patiently and carefully. He will help them sweep away these barriers and frustrate the enemy's best-laid plans to hold them back. The only way one can help them personally is by knowing them. The sheep must know the voice of the shepherd.

It is a grave mistake to drop one's interest in people after they have been baptized. The care should continue through a period of years and should be just as tender and sympathetic and steady as when the convert was first led into the truth. Many a young convert has grown lax or has fallen by the wayside because be was left to his own devices after baptism. The differ­ence in spiritual attention by the worker be­fore baptism and after baptism is often too great. It is a privilege to nurture God's people in the truth of the living God.

It is quite natural for prospective candidates for baptism to attend Sabbath school. The wise Sabbath school superintendent will steer them into the pastor's or the Bible instructor's class. When the need is apparent, this affords an ex­cellent opportunity to give special lessons to these new converts. If there is ever a time when digressing from the Sabbath school lesson is allowable, it is here. The lesson may be on "Sanctification," but the subject of tobacco may become the theme of the morning's study. At times a special set of specially prepared Sab­bath school lessons may be followed with great profit for a number of weeks. This procedure often greatly accelerates the preparation of can­didates for baptism. When this method is fol­lowed, others in the Sabbath school class should be treated in the main as spectators, for the interest should be focused on the prospective believers. Progress on the part of these new be­lievers is encouraging.

The closest harmony should exist between Bible instructor and pastor as they prepare the candidates for baptism. In no case should the minister prematurely hurry along a class which the Bible instructor may be preparing. It is far better to wait a few weeks than to force the Bible instructor to do superficial work. It is always safe to allow converts to prove their experience for a number of weeks, or even months, before they are presented to the church for acceptance and baptism. Many a spiritual tragedy has been avoided by following this common sense method.

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By WILLARD A. DESSAIN, Pastor, First Church, St. Paul, Minnesota

May 1943

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