The following content is an excerpt from the eBook Evangelism or Discipleship. Download your free digital version in your favorite format here.
At the dawn of the Christian era, water baptism was the official beginning for those who wanted to declare their faith. The baptismal formula “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” has largely remained the practice of the church. In the majority of cultures outside of the Western Hemisphere, baptism still marks a clear difference in how others see you, especially in countries dominated by other religions.
I (Bobby) have a relationship with Joe Shulam in Israel and his story is a classic example. As a young Israeli, Joe was warned by his Jewish parents that if he decided to follow Jesus as the Messiah, they would cut him off. Joe wrestled with the decision for some time and then made his decision. As soon as his parents heard of his baptism, they cut him off. He was forced to enter into adulthood and live for many years estranged from his parents (years later, they too decided to follow Jesus as their Messiah). For Joe, like so many, baptism was the dividing line between his old life and the new.
Bobby Harrington, author of this blog, serves as Executive Director of Discipleship·org, which hosts the National Disciple Making Forum in Nashville, Tennessee—this month! Join us in Nashville next for this life-changing event. Click here to claim your seat now.
In the United States, believer baptisms are done in churches, swimming pools and the ocean. Most of these ceremonies are relationally benign, rarely raising an eyebrow. And they are cultural artifacts. People in general, and this would be true of most church members, do not expect getting wet to make much of a difference in one’s life.
Matthew 28 asks us to think in terms of what we’re being baptized into. It seems important to say that that baptism places us into a community that finds its genesis in the Triune God: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are given a unity with others in Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-13). It is a community based on truth, trust and grace that aspires to practice in community what their God does. This “belonging” is one of the most inviting parts of what it means to be a follower of Christ, because you join Christ and His community. The human division of the Christ community is flawed, sometimes outright ugly and embarrassing, but its potential for good is better than any other experience on earth. When someone is baptized, it is with the hope that she can live this reality and have a blessed life in Christ because she is in community.
This comes from the free eBook Evangelism or Discipleship, which you can download here.
The process we call “making disciples” includes evangelism and is done by disciples to make other disciples. That process includes just about everything we do in relation to people around us. Some elements of the process are planned; some we learn from our training. But as a whole, most are unplanned and are manifested in our character. Disciple making includes what we are like when we react to the unplanned big curriculum of life as it comes at us day and night without warning.
Written by Bill Hull and Bobby Harrington
Bill Hull is a Co-Founder of The Bonhoeffer Project. Bill’s passion is to help the Church return to its disciple making roots. He considers himself a discipleship evangelist. This God-given desire has manifested itself in 20 years of pastoring and the authorship of many books. Two of his more important books Jesus Christ Disciple Maker and The Disciple Making Pastor have both celebrated 20 years in print. Add a third in the popular trilogy—The Disciple Making Church—and you have a new paradigm for disciple making.
Bobby Harrington is the Executive Director of Discipleship.org, a national platform, conference, and ministry that advocates for Jesus’ style of disciple making. He is the founding and lead pastor of Harpeth Christian Church (by the Harpeth River, just outside of Nashville, TN). He has a Doctor of Ministry degree in consulting and has spent years as a coach to church planters and senior pastors. He is the author of several books on discipleship, including DiscipleShift (with Jim Putman and Robert Coleman) and The Disciple Maker’s Handbook (with Josh Patrick).
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