In the past, Steven Furtick garnered much criticism for his spontaneous baptism where he was having staff pretend as though they were among new converts. Though this was deceitful, this is not all that spontaneous baptism claims to be. Many evangelical churches perform spontaneous baptisms, however when Southern Baptist churches do so, it raises a level of scrutiny since Baptists place a large emphasis on the orthopraxy of this sacrament.
In theory a spontaneous baptism is where someone is converted to Christ in a church service and wants to be baptized on the spot and declare their newfound faith. In the Book of Acts we see multiple examples of someone coming to faith and being baptized with little gap in-between the two events. It’s safe to assume that Baptist believe in such little gap.
In the weeks leading up to Easter, the North American Mission Board released a video promoting spontaneous baptism on the day more people would attend than any other. In this video they cited JD Greear’s support for the practice. In addition to NAMB and Greear, other proponents of spontaneous baptism include David Platt of McLean Bible Church in northern Virginia. Last Easter, the practice of spontaneous baptism yielded this megachurch 586 baptisms across all services. It’s important to note that David Platt was at one point President of the International Missions Board. So, a lot of higherups within the SBC endorse the practice.
JD Greear uses the baptism in the Book of Acts to argue in favor of the practice. Even with the examples in the Book of Acts, many of which were caused by underlying supernatural events, we must heed the words of Jesus when it comes to the sower and the seeds.
“Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. 6And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 7Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 8Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” 9And He was saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
David Platt preached the word of God, so we assume. Of these 586 baptisms, how many were authentic? Given the megachurch environment and Barna data that suggests that fifty percent of regular church goers do not hold a Biblical worldview, it’s likely an alarmingly high rate of false conversions of those 586 baptisms. And the reasons for doing this are more numerical than one would think. The North American Mission Board has drawn a lot of scrutiny for what appears to be a decade of mismanagement. Baptisms and church plants have decreased despite the considerable rise in church plant costs. The push for spontaneous baptisms is like the push to close the sale and thereby improve the performance metrics of NAMB. This ulterior motive cannot be ignored.
There are similarities between ministry and sales. Performance to some degree can be measured, the effectiveness or efficiency. When I worked in marketing, the quality of the leads, in my experience, was more important than the number of leads. Similarly the quality of the soil in the parable end up paramount in comparison to the number of seeds. But there are limits to comparing ministry to sales. Spontaneous baptism is closing the sale in one sermon, however, a pastor closing the sale does not necessarily increase the kingdom of God. Sales and public speaking are an art. Emotions can run high during a sermon, just as during a sales pitch. In direct sales there are often grace periods and extended grace periods for the elderly because they get taken advantage of by people looking to increase their numbers. As Christians we must realize that only God can increase his kingdom and we are blessed to be a part of the process. The fear of and consequences of false conversions are far more reaching than delaying the baptism of a genuine believer. For there is no harm in the latter but a false conversion is bad for both witnessing and the individual. We are trying to make new Christians into disciples, not close sales and have people leave the minute they count the costs.
When I was baptized, it wasn’t the same day but certainly soon after my own conversion. I believe this was an ideal sequence of events as I knew what I was getting into and this was not an emotionally driven process. So instead of calling for spontaneous baptisms on Easter, present the gospel and baptize the new believers the next Sunday.
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