HOW SHOULD A BAPTISMAL SERVICE BE CONDUCTED?
Baptism is symbolic. It is a picture of something that has already happened in the life of the believer being baptized. It pictures death and burial to the old nature and the beginning of the new life in Christ.
For surely you know that when we were baptized into union with Christ Jesus, we were baptized into union with his death. By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and shared his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life. Romans 6:3-5
TIME FOR THE BAPTISM
The church, in consultation with those to be baptized, will set the date for the baptismal service. It should be a time when many of the members can attend.
PLACE FOR THE BAPTISM
The baptism may be in a river, the sea, or any other body of water. Some churches have baptistries built into their church buildings. Some have a container made of concrete or other material built outside. The water should be about waist deep and clean.
ATMOSPHERE FOR THE BAPTISM
While the baptismal service is one of great joy, order and reverence should be observed. Remember this is symbolic of a death, burial, and resurrection.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THOSE TO BE BAPTIZED
Before the service begins, the one doing the baptizing should give brief instructions to those who are to be baptized. These instructions include at least the following:
- Hold knees stiff with back and neck rigid.
- Fold the hands across the breast.
- Stand with side to the congregation.
- Hold breath when being lowered into the water and until raised out of the water. (This will be just an instant. As a general rule, a handkerchief need not be used to hold the nose. This is a picture of a dead person being buried.)
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE ONE DOING THE BAPTIZING
After entering the water stand facing the congregation. The one to be baptized will stand in front of you and a little to your left. (Assuming you are right handed.) Grasp the folded hands of the candidate with your left hand and say, "Have you,___________, accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord?" The candidate will answer, "Yes I have." In some places it is the custom for the one baptizing to raise his right hand as he says, "Because you have accepted Christ as your Savior and Lord, and because He commands that you be baptized, I baptize you, my brother/sister in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
Place your right hand on the back of the candidate's neck and gently lower the candidate into the water. Lower until the face is just below the surface of the water and raise back out immediately.
THE BAPTISMAL SERVICE
This will vary, depending upon where the baptismal service is held. If at the church house, it may be a part of a regular worship service. Normally, when held as a part of the worship service, there will be a sermon before the baptism. The sermon may relate to the topic of baptism. If the service is held at the sea or river, the following order may be followed:
1. A brief explanation by the leader concerning the meaning of baptism.
2. Scripture reading. Some appropriate Scriptures are Matthew 3:1-17 and Acts 8:26-39.
3. Sing familiar songs
4. Prayer - led by pastor or one of the church members.
5. The one doing the baptizing will go into the water, followed by the candidates.
6. After all are baptized, the group may want to join hands and sing an appropriate hymn.
7. Closing prayer
In many churches those who were baptized are now officially members of the church.
The church may give baptismal certificates at the end of the baptismal service or at the next worship service.
Note: Some people may ask the question, "What do we do if we have no pastor? Who will do the baptizing?" Anyone authorized by the church may conduct the baptismal service. This normally should be a well respected leader in the church.
"Does he have to be 'ordained' before he can baptize?" The answer is no.
"Must a person have seminary training before he can baptize?" Again the answer is no.
The one leading the baptismal service should meet the basic qualifications of a church leader found in I Timothy 3:1-13. The church must be careful in choosing who is allowed to lead the baptismal service.
The baptismal service is very beautiful and meaningful and should be conducted with reverence. There are many variations of conducting a baptismal service. This is one basic, simple way.