Pastoral Perspectives

More than just a formality

Recently, one of our Boy’s Brigade officers shared with me about his university classmate who thought that he should be baptised before he can attend a church’s worship service. Although I am surprised that an educated young man can have such a misconception about the sacrament of baptism, what was more troubling to me was that his classmate did get baptised when he was a teenager. Somehow even though he had not explicitly professed faith in Jesus nor has he truly understood the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the church baptised him and recognised him as a member. Unfortunately, after attending a few sessions of the church’s youth program, this young man lost interest and has not worshipped in any church ever since.  

To be honest, I am rather flabbergasted that there could be such a pastoral oversight by a church. In my mind, I was wondering how is it possible that a church would so readily baptise someone even though there was little to suggest that the young man was a believer. Hopefully, at True Way, those who are considering transferring their membership or baptism/confirmation will have this understanding that attending our Membership class does not mean that one will automatically be received as a member of our church. Likewise, after someone has completed the 7 sessions (which includes an interview), it does not mean that the person is compelled to proceed with baptism or confirmation.

The example of this young man reminded me of the importance of discipleship and being intentional in helping people in their spiritual growth and understanding of God’s Word. There is much that every Christian can do, not just when we gather as a corporate body but also as individuals through our interaction with others. In the case of this young man, I feel rather sad that it seemed that he did not know any other Christian who could help him with his queries nor was there any Christian who reached out to him with the Gospel. Hopefully, as my BB officer begins to pray for his classmate, God will open doors for him to develop the friendship and give him the joy of seeing his classmate come to faith in Christ.  

With regards to the Membership Class at True Way, I trust that our worshippers will understand that this is one of the ways that as a church we are obeying the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) to make disciples and demonstrating our love for God. If we say that we love God, then all that we seek to do as a church or as an individual must be in alignment with what God has commanded us. Although churches may differ in the content and length of their Membership or Baptism class, no one has the right to pick and choose which sacraments to observe. While Scripture teaches clearly that we do not need to be baptised in order to receive salvation, it is equally clear that every believer should work towards being baptised (Acts 2:38-42).

Secondly, our Membership class is a way for us to demonstrate love for God’s people. Given that people may have different ideas of what being a follower of Jesus means and entails, the class provides an opportunity for church leaders to teach the basic tenets of Christianity and put into practice the fruit of the Spirit as we interact with one another. More than just passing information, our intent is to disciple others and help them grow in Christ through the teaching of God’s Word and sharing our lives together.

Because we love God’s people, we desire for them to know God’s truth and to have a strong foundation, lest they get easily tossed by every wind of false teaching (Ephesians 4:4). In addition, we endeavour to the worshipper better and to discern how we can journey with and care for him even as we hear of how God is working in his life. Moreover, it is only right that a person learns about our church’s biblical values, doctrinal convictions and practices and then takes them as his own since he is pledging to become part of this faith community.

Finally, the requirement for all who attend our Membership class to share their testimony is meant to be a way to demonstrate love for God’s world. When we identify ourselves as followers of Christ, we need to heed the exhortation from Apostle Paul that “Christ’s love compels us… that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). If we desire to honour God, one of the ways would be to testify about the reality and faithfulness of God and to proclaim the truth about His risen Son. Here at True Way, our prayer is that our Membership class can help kick-start the process and equip believers to be effective witnesses for Christ.   

Indeed, if we are to love others as Christ has loved us, let us prayerfully learn to overcome whatever fears or feelings of inadequacy and work towards making the Gospel “visible”, whether in the life of the church or through our lives. For those who have taken that step of faith, many have discovered that the more they learn to share, the easier it becomes the next time round. More importantly, whenever someone testifies about how Christ has saved him and brought him into the life of a church, God does use this testimony to bless another person and bring glory to His name. Undoubtedly, no church who loves Jesus and people would want anything less that.

Rev Edwin Wong

February 26, 2017