Thinking Out Loud

April 12, 2014

On First Communion and Confirmation Gift-Giving

First Communion Confirmation

…And how it relates to adult Baptism by Evangelicals

I don’t know enough Roman Catholic Church history to know at what point First Communion and Confirmation became gift giving occasions; though I do see how the Christening of a baby might occasion a little remembrance from close family. More recently, I’ve been asked if there is a gift or card appropriate for First Reconciliation, the first confession necessary before receiving the sacrament.

In the last several years, this activity has not been restricted to friends and family of Catholic Children. Believer’s baptism of adults and teens in Evangelical churches often joins the rank of religious occasions sending people out into the marketplace frantically searching for just the right gift. I’m not sure if this by outsiders who feel the gift is expected, or by insiders who have been caught up the current of purchasing started by their Mainline Protestant and Catholic friends.

As someone whose daytime employment allows for the possibility that I have a huge conflict of interest here, let me say for the record that I have always put principle over profit, and in this case I think a card is sufficient and a gift is not warranted.

Yes, it’s okay to give people Christian books and Bibles to encourage them in their Christian journey generally; and some CDs and wall plaques might even suit the occasion. But nobody reading this should ever feel that when someone desires to follow Jesus in the waters of Baptism that this necessitates a shopping trip. 

Perhaps this a microcosm of our modern consumerist disease that propels us to take any situation — good or bad — and throw money at it. There is also the possibility that if it’s a young adult being baptized, Christians are searching for a counterpart to the Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah enjoyed by our Jewish friends, or Catholic or Anglican confirmation itself.

Rather, just as a wedding is an opportunity for a couple to think back to their wedding day and inwardly renew their vows, an adult baptism service allows you and I to look carefully at our own walk with God and refresh that commitment.

Someone at the early stages of their Christian journey needs you as a mentor, not a benefactor. Don’t buy something, be there for them.


I got into a much deeper Bible study using this topic as a springboard today at Christianity 201. Click here to read Cheapening Spiritual Progress With Giftware.

Image: Random pics from two Google Images searches for Confirmation and First Communion Gifts. I only saw one thumbnail picture of a Bible among the pictures selected.

 

April 16, 2012

Follow Jesus and Receive Lovely Gifts

I don’t know enough Roman Catholic Church history to know at what point First Communion and Confirmation became gift giving occasions; though I can see how the Christening of a baby might occasion a little remembrance from close family.

But lately, believer’s baptism of adults and teens has joined the rank of religious occasions sending people out into the marketplace frantically searching for just the right gift.

As someone whose daytime employment allows for the possibility that I have a huge conflict of interest here, let me say for the record that I have always put principle over profit, and in this case I think a card is sufficient and a gift is not warranted.

Yes, it’s okay to give people Christian books and Bibles to encourage them in their Christian journey generally; and some CDs and wall plaques might even suit the occasion. But nobody reading this should ever feel that when someone desires to follow Jesus in the waters of Baptism that this necessitates a shopping trip.

Rather, just as a wedding is an opportunity for a couple to think back to their wedding day and inwardly renew their vows, the baptism service allows you and I to look carefully at our own walk with God and refresh that commitment.

Someone at the early stages of their Christian journey needs you as a mentor, not a benefactor.

Image: Canyon Ridge Christian Church

February 25, 2011

Believer’s Baptism: How Young is Too Young?

She couldn’t be seen over the rail of the baptismal tank. Despite having a clear line of sight, the best we could do is listen to the audio as the pastor explained that at nine-years-old, she was the youngest person ever baptized in that church, and was doing so only after a great deal of discussion with her, her parents, and the pastoral staff.

I couldn’t help but think she was too young…

I was thirteen when I was baptized in the Peoples Church in Toronto by Dr. Paul B. Smith, the son of iconic missionary statesman Oswald J. Smith. It was a Wednesday night, but most of the 2,200 seats in the auditorium were filled. I was given a number. There were over 100 people baptized that night and it was done alphabetically. I think I was 119.  We each filed through the platform and gave a 30-second testimony. Then the actual baptisms started.

There’s no way the pastor knew everyone he baptized that night. So as we entered the water a small name tag was pinned to our inner sleeve.  Then it was over.

I was glad it was over. I wanted to get it over. I was baptized out of guilt.

For some reason, I felt that I had completed all my obligations to the church and to God once I had had “accepted” Jesus as “my personal Savior.” So when a traveling Evangelist rolled in when I was eleven and gave several invitations for people to, as he said it with his accent, be ‘bap-i-tized,’ I suddenly realized I was spiritually incomplete, and thereby spiritually inferior.

With the baptisms conducted on weeknights, I didn’t get the exposure to it that those growing up in other churches did, growing up where a baptism could occur in the context of any particular Sunday service. As the evangelist asked people to raise their hands if they’d never been baptized as believers, I raised my hand, but when he asked how many of those would like to commit to being baptized, I cowered into something best described as a sitting fetal position.

My parents wisely decided that I should postpone this important event for at least a year, but I spent the better part of church services in what turned out to be about two years — especially when the invitation was given, as it was every Sunday night — feeling like a prisoner who is about to be taken out to be shot. Guilt is not a great motivator for spiritual decision making.

To compound things, I have a gift with words and with speaking, so when it did happen a couple of years later, my 30-second soundbite so impressed the leadership that I was asked to give a much longer testimony in Sunday School a few weeks later.

I spoke well. My spirituality was firmly established in the minds of the people who mattered. I was a rising spiritual superstar.

But I was only thirteen.

In hindsight, eighteen would have been the perfect time for me to be baptized. At that point, I wasn’t just capable of giving a testimony, but I was inching toward living a testimony; and not just before the church crowd but at a very secular university. I was choosing my friends and my activities on the basis of my faith, and was going public with my beliefs in a much larger way than many.

Between thirteen and eighteen, a few things happened to indicate that I was not quite established on the spiritual trajectory where I now find myself. Looking back, I wish I could have been baptized at twenty-one, or thirty-one, or even last week. It’s one of those, “If only I knew then what I know now” situations. But for me, waiting until after high-school graduation would have been most meaningful.

So how young is too young?

…Things worked out for the nine-year-old baptismal candidate. She married a youth pastor and they have a couple of kids and are faithfully serving the Lord. But what about the rest?

I really wanted to be part of the discussion of this at Kingdom People last week, but as mentioned yesterday, thanks to an impersonator, I’m now blocked from commenting at all my favorite sites.  Be sure to read his very brief article and the comments which follow.

I recognize some of you have a ‘sacramental’ view of Baptism and some have view it as an ‘ordinance.’  I also realize some of you believe that infant baptism is sufficient, though the New Testament appears not to support this.

What are your thoughts on this?  Does your church mandate a specific age? Leave a comment, and then in a few days, we’ll look at the parallel issue: Younger children partaking of Communion, aka Eucharist, aka Lord’s supper.

Like birth, baptism means life. It is done once, yet it is for all of our life….we need to discover ways to communicate baptismal living. If I say, “I was married,” you will likely assume that my wife has died or I am divorced. But if I say, “I am married,” you will assume I have a wife and that on a certain date I was married and still am. Although it is true and essential to say I was baptized, it is also necessary to assert, “I am baptized.”

~Thomas H. Schattauer

The first picture, of the Mormon Baptism is apparently everyone’s default child baptism pic. If you’ve seen it one website, you’ve probably seen it on fifty. The second picture is from a Baptist Church. The third one may be taking in place in potentially chilly waters in British Columbia, Canada.

Related post at this blog: The Lord’s Table: How Young is Too Young?

Only marginally related story if you need a smile!

December 15, 2010

Wednesday Link List

It’s a busy week for most so I’ll keep the list short(er) this week…

  • Yes, I do list the links in order of importance, so for this week, it’s got to be a Christianity Today story in celebration of 50 years of Youth With A Mission (YWAM).
  • “Does it really make sense that God is a loving, kind, compassionate God who wants to know people in a personal way, but if they reject this relationship with Jesus, they will be sent to hell where God will eternally punish them forever?”   That question, included in the online, advance-publication announcement for Rob Bell’s forthcoming Love Wins, may explain why the title is with HarperOne, and not with Zondervan.
  • The Amish are causing problems for building contractors in Philadelphia where they are underbidding local companies on jobs, and then leaving town without spending any money.
  • Lots of time to answer our poll question from yesterday — Should audiences still be expected to stand for the playing of the Hallelujah Chorus?
  • A look at Brad Lomenick’s “Young Influencers List” for December led to the discovery that he’s been doing this list for a few years now, with some names you might recognize.
  • If you own a business in Dallas, Texas, you’d better not be substituting “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas” or First Baptist Church will put you on their “Naughty or Nice” list.
  • It’s minus 12 degrees Celsius, or 10 degrees Fahrenheit in Fairbanks, Alaska.  What better time for an outdoor baptism service.
  • Because of remarks made by Canadian Pastor Charles McVety, the National Post reports that Crossroads Television System (CTS) has been found to be in violation of Canada’s strict “anti-hate” Canadian Broadcast Standards.
  • Cedric Miller, a New Jersey pastor “believes the forbidden fruit had a QWERTY keyboard and came with status updates.”  He’s ordered his church leaders to either quit Facebook or resign.
  • Canadian readers:  Don’t forget you have less than two weeks to help us fill our Salvation Army iKettle.  No matter where you live, donations stay with the S.A. Family Services branch closest to you.
  • Joel Spencer doesn’t blog frequently, but if you like your bloggers with tongues firmly planted in cheeks, you might enjoy his catalog of Jesus action figures for 2010.
  • Bonus link:  In the days before Weird Al, there was Ray Stevens (Guitarzan, The Streak, Bridget the Midget, etc.) filling the novelty music category.  He’s back with a commentary on U.S. immigration policy.
  • Today’s cartoon is a 2009 entry at ShoeBoxBlog, while today’s picture is none other than Shane Claiborne at the White House which appeared — National Enquirer style — at the blog OutOfUr.  BTW, you need to drop by your bookstore to actually see, touch and feel what Shane is doing with his new book, Common Prayer.

June 6, 2010

Christopher, We’re Proud of You

Filed under: family, parenting — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:48 pm

I don’t get too personal on this blog, but today is an exception.   This morning our oldest son, Christopher, was baptized.   The picture is a bit grainy — we need a good camera — but he’s the one in the baptismal robe, and the pastor is Rev. Jeff Knott, who I had the honor of working with in the capacity of worship leader for a little over a year, awhile back.

But back to Chris.  We’re really proud of the spiritual maturity he demonstrates — both of my boys actually totally surpass where I was at their age.  He also decided to share his testimony without notes — despite my constant, week-long prodding — and I think people respected his raw transparency, something we value highly in our family.

In a few weeks he leaves us for ten weeks to work at a Christian camp about two hours northeast of where we live.   He’ll be working in the kitchen — the job nobody wants because of the heat — for the second year, and if you add up all his culinary/food-service experience, this will be the seventh thing he can put on a resumé.   He may be majoring in electrical engineering, but the cooking skills he has already would lead to a decent-paying summer job.  Unfortunately, the camp is ill-equipped to pay people, so, like a summer missions student, he has to do the necessary fundraising to cover his own salary.

There’s something about us Wilkinsons that we seem to always choose principle over profit; ministry over money.   Income eludes us.   So I’ll be mentioning that in a few days on this blog.   Meanwhile, if you want to support him in that and want to beat the rush, you can request the necessary paperwork from us at epistle[at]ymail.com (ymail — as in Yahoo — is not a typo). Canadian donations earn tax receipts, U.S. donors who just want to help out can e-mail us and I can give you another option.

But I’m getting off topic here.   The focus today is that his desire was to follow Jesus in baptism and give public testimony to what God has done — and is continuing to do — in his life.  I was thrilled that we were able to witness that today.  I’m also sure that in that congregation, he has picked up some individuals he may never know who will be remembering him in prayer over the next few days, weeks and months.

I know I have readers for whom baptism was something that was done when you were too small to remember. I don’t want to engage that debate, but the scriptures don’t mention infant baptism, but there are frequent references to believer’s baptism. I think it’s a wonderful thing, yes; but I also see it as a scriptural commandment. If you haven’t been baptized to this point, why not?

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