Apr 6, 2022.
Baptism means many things to the Church in the West. For some, it is outwardly demonstrating the inward cleansing of salvation. For others it means they have decided to follow Jesus and become a Christian. And for still others it means they are joining a denomination, or a church. While scripture gives multiple images of baptism, Paul’s statements in Romans 6:3-5 about becoming baptized into the life, death, and resurrection of Christ deserves special attention. We view salvation as inviting Jesus into our life. But when do we accept Jesus’ invitation to become immersed into his life?
#JesusStories: Mark 8:34ff captures a moment when Jesus invited his disciples into a deep baptism indeed. Peter had just rebuked Jesus for talking about crucifixion, to which Jesus told Peter to stop thinking like everyone else and to stop playing into the hand of Satan’s plans. Then he huddled the disciples and the crowd together and told them to take up their own crosses, die to their own plans, forget about living in their own lives, and start living in Jesus’ life and mission to announce the Good News. In other words, become immersed into the very life of Jesus. This is the baptism Jesus had in mind.
Many years ago I began hearing about the ‘bounded-set’ organizations vs. the ‘center-set’. And to be honest, I found it confusing until I applied it to the historic Church. All ‘bounded-set’ churches throughout history created a boundary that people had to walk through to join. Whether is was a year-long catechism of ancient days or repeating the sinners prayer and committing to the biblical lifestyle as is commonly practiced today, they were boundaries that separated the saints from the sinners. These boundaries were formed in the second century during the rise of several heresy’s that threatened the teachings of the Apostles, and has continues unquestioned through to our day. Most churches have some kind of filtration that separates those who are worthy to be a part of their Christian expression. Interestingly, the First Church held no such organizational boundary. While 1 Corinthians 11 has been used to justify spiritual boundaries patrolled by the church leaders, I would argue the unworthiness Paul was confronting was based on their unwillingness to include outsiders, not an argument for exclusion. All-to-say, the First Followers saw the Church as anyone who was moving toward the life of Jesus. They were a ‘center-set’ group who’s only goal was to draw the sinner to the Savior day-by-day, step-by-step, grace-by-grace, and faith-by-faith. For them, the center of the faith was becoming immersed into the very life of Jesus – baptized into the very life of Jesus. This was intensely supported by their speaking content which revolved around the telling and retelling of the Jesus Stories. But we live in a different day; many Christians skip through the Gospel stories, then delve deeply into the rest of scripture. Some even think the Jesus Stories are for children, while the rest of the book is the deeper material for mature Christian. It should be exactly the opposite; the Jesus Stories are the highpoint of the Bible. Leadership Question: How can we become immersed into the life of Jesus without becoming immersed in the 468 stories and eyewitness reports about him?
#DinnerChurchQuotes: Each Corinthian Christian brought their own food basket to the communal meal. Eranos (Gk) can be translated as ‘potluck dinner’. But Paul criticized their premature beginnings rather than waiting for everyone to arrive to share the meal together. (Leslie Houlden)
#PracticalStuff: Everyone on your team needs to be involved in telling Jesus Stories, both at tables and up front. For this to happen, they must be immersed into the Jesus Stories in their own meditations and devotion times. What can you do to encourage that with your team? Further, can you start scheduling your team to tell a Jesus Stories at your dinner church? Or if they are shy, call them forward and interview them on a Jesus Story that is stirring in their heart lately? This is not only necessary for your churches baptism into the life of Jesus, it is also necessary for your team’s baptism. What do you think?
Blessings & Boldness,
Dr. Verlon and Melodee Fosner have led a multi-site Assemblies of God Dinner Church in Seattle, Washington since 1999 (www.CommunityDinners.com). In this decade when more churches in the U.S. are declining than thriving, and when ninety-six churches a week are closing, Verlon and Melodee sensed that a different way of doing church was needed for their 100-year old Seattle congregation. It soon became obvious that they were not the only ones in need of a different path. They joined the FX team in 2016 and founded the Dinner Church Collective. And then in 2019 founded the Dinner Church School of Leadership. There is a lot to be gained when church leaders begin to see open doors in the American landscape that they had previously overlooked. Therein lies the journey for those who will forge a new future for the American Church.