Yesterday morning at Hobart Baptist Church we celebrated new followers of Jesus declaring their commitment to him in baptism.
The word “baptism” was taken from the Greek language of the New Testament where it simply meant to “immerse in water”. Immersing people in water was an important symbol in biblical times and practised in a number of societies across the Middle East. It symbolised dying to a past way of living and identifying with a new way of living for the future.
Today, thousands of years later, it is still used it as a way for people to demonstrate to their friends, family, co-workers and themselves that their lives have changed. It symbolises dying to your old life by going down under the water, and coming up out of the water symbolises being born again into a new life. It is a powerful way of saying we immerse ourselves in all that Jesus is about and publicly declare this reality.
One special feature of the baptisms yesterday was those who were baptised. Read More >>>
Baptism: Being Immersed in Jesus
Yesterday at Hobart Baptist Church we enjoyed for the second week in a row, three special baptisms. It is was a special time of celebration when new followers of Jesus declared their commitment and faith in this way.
If you were able to take a moment to look around our church you would notice we are an international church with many different backgrounds, languages, ages, cultures and experiences. We currently have three gatherings on Sundays . . .
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Being Willing to Count the Cost
Rick Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Church in the US, tells the story of how they paid for their first church service way back in 1980. Their small home Bible study of four people went $6,500 into debt using their own personal credit cards to ensure the service went ahead. While not advocating the use of credit cards in such a way Warren uses the story to illustrate how willing they were to pay the cost of reaching people for Christ. That first service attracted 200 people; today the church has over 15,000 members.
Warren suggests that when it comes to mission, evangelism and outreach most churches ask the wrong question. Instead of asking, “How much will it cost?” they should ask “Who will it reach?” Evangelism always costs money, but it should never be looked at as an expense – it’s always an investment. After all, he asks, “How much is a soul worth? If you spend $500 on a newspaper ad that reaches one unbeliever for Christ, is it worth it?”
This year at Hobart Baptist we’ve had the joy of seeing a number of people come know Jesus and witnessed 13 baptisms (including 10 on one Sunday in September). What a delight that has been. But we can’t relax and feel the job is done, as there is so much more to do. What will it cost us and what are we willing to pay to see people come to Christ in Hobart?
Next year Baptist churches across Hobart will be focusing, among other things, on each one of us reaching out to one other person who currently doesn’t know Christ (or perhaps once went to church). Our aim will be for each one to reach one.
This may feel a little daunting for some of us, but we can encourage each other to pray, make connection with, talk to and befriend another person. It may be a family member, a friend, or someone who we haven’t even met yet. We can pray for each other that God will lead us to the right person. If each of us are willing to pay the cost of reaching one person, imagine how the angels would celebrate and what it would mean for our churches.
Early next year (February Friday 24th and Saturday 25th) we will be holding our second engageHOBART conference. This is the conference of the Baptist Churches of Greater Hobart and is part of our 2020 Vision. The conference focuses on evangelism, mission and church planting and aims to increase our desire, capacity and capability to reach out to others. Let me encourage you to make the time to attend. Last year about 35 people from Hobart Baptist attended and it would be great to see at least that number again in 2012.
More information and registration details are available on the conference website at www.engagehobart.com.au or have a chat with Karen Stott, our 2020 Vision representative.
Getting serious about evangelism will cost something – our time, our money and our effort. Will you pray with me that God will inspire and motivate us all to reach out to one other person during 2012? Whether you live in Hobart or not, are you willing to pay that cost?
Stephen L Baxter
Discipleship – An exciting adventure
Last week was a significant moment in the life of Hobart Baptist Church, but more importantly, it was significant for the 10 people baptised. It began their life of discipleship. God not only rescued them from their sin, but calls them to the greatest adventure of all – the adventure of being transformed to be more like Jesus and working with him in his work in the world.
Following Jesus is the most important decision we make in our lives. It far exceeds decisions such as who you will marry, your chosen career, or where you might live. But this decision is only the beginning of the life of discipleship.
A number of years ago Dietrich Bonhoeffer(1906-1945) famously wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” These words challenged many over the past
60 years or so, and they still do so today. They remind us that our choice to follow Jesus is not just about being rescued, but it begins a lifestyle of learning to live according to his will rather than our own. We put aside our self interests and submit to his.
Many have taken the journey of discipleship before us and they are our examples. Throughout church history hundreds of thousands of Christians have put aside careers, families, hopes and dreams. For two of Jesus disciples, James and John, it meant leaving the family fishing business behind (Matt 4:21-22). For Abraham, centuries before, it meant leaving behind the middle-class comforts of Ur of the Chaldees (Gen 11:31) and not knowing where he was going, trusting God would look after him and make him a great nation – and God did.
Living fruitful lives
Discipleship is not reserved for a special few but is the norm for anyone who believes Jesus is their Saviour and the rightful King of the entire world. Yet, Jesus warns us there are some who begin following Jesus that never go on to live fruitful lives for him.
There are many reasons for this but one of them is that following Jesus is not necessarily easy. Just like James, John and Abraham we can expect following Jesus will bring changes in our lives in many ways. We can expect to be challenged in every aspect of our lives: our thinking, attitudes, commitments and behaviour. We can expect to grow, and growth is often uncomfortable and challenging. We can expect to be confronted with things in our lives that are difficult to face. Even though we try to avoid them, God will not forget us. He is gentle, and while he will not force us to change, he will continue to pursue us because he loves us.
Costly discipleship: We can expect to grow, and growth is often uncomfortable and challenging.
What it means to follow
Being a disciple of Jesus is an exciting life of adventure, but it is challenging adventure. It demands things of us that in our own strength seem impossible; yet with God “all things are possible.” (Mk 10:27) It is only as we willingly follow him and allow him to change us that we begin to know him better and then he meets us in intimate and life-transforming ways.
Let us pray for the new followers of Jesus, even as we pray for ourselves, asking God to help us be purposeful, intentional and motivated in our following of Jesus. And may He mature us all to be more and more like Jesus and pray with him that His Kingdom may come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Stephen L Baxter
I Am Excited!
God is up to something! On Sunday, we at Hobart Baptist, witnessed the baptism of 10 people in our service. It was a great time of celebration and thanks to God. I’m sure Jesus is pleased. He is building his church and we have the privilege to be part of it.
Events like this do not happen without the prayers, hard work and faithfulness of God’s people. Over the years many have prayed and asked God to be at work in and through Hobart Baptist Church. Many suffered through difficult times, others were patient and persevering when it seemed little was happening. And there have been quite a few changes that have opened the door for God to work. Now, we see the evidence of God’s answer to those prayers and the hard work.
Remaining level headed
This is a good time to remind ourselves that the church does not exist to serve the needs of the congregation. Instead it exists to serve the mission of God in the world. It is, as Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians, [God who] “has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Cor 5:20, my paraphrase)
I recently read about the pastor of a large church who encouraged his leaders to be very clear that they are not to serve the “members” of the church, but make sure they focus on the “mission” of the church. “If we served the members,” he wrote, “we would have to significantly increase the employee mental health benefit of the leaders because members often disagree!”
Some of us may find it shocking to think that your church is not there to serve you. Yet the Bible is clear. In Colossians it says that “He (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence” (1:18). Whose church is it? It’s not mine and it’s not yours. It belongs to Jesus. The NIV Application Commentary explains, “If Christ is the head of the church . . . the church does not exist to meet the needs of its members or to insure its institutional survival, but to fulfil the redemptive purposes of Christ, its head.”
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find myself expecting the church to first and foremost be here for me. I expect the sermon to be relevant to my life, the music should be a style I like, and the songs ones I am familiar with. The length of the service should suit me, and not ask too much of me, and so on. I’m sure it is true for all of us: it’s not hard to be dissatisfied with some aspects of our church as there is always something not to our taste or liking.
Adjusting our atitude
So how are we to deal with our dissatisfaction? There is nothing wrong with dissatisfaction in itself. If we were never dissatisfied we would never change anything. But allowing our dissatisfaction to become unhealthy can lead us to complaining, to bitterness and even to leaving. We can try to change what we don’t like, or be resistant to any change, even what really needs to happen.
But if the church is here to serve Jesus, and not me or the congregation, then there must be another way. If so, what should be my approach? I wonder if firstly we need to get our priorities right. Is having church the way I like it more important than proclaiming the gospel of Jesus and seeing people coming to know him as Lord? I suggest not. If Jesus is glorified in our times of worship, whatever the style, isn’t that something to celebrate? Today we live in a community where the majority of people don’t even bother and don’t care about Jesus, so if he is honoured, in anyway, we should celebrate with the angels.
If the church is here to serve Jesus, and not me or the congregation, then there must be another way.
That is not to say that God doesn’t enjoy diversity. Obviously the format of some churches will suit some people better than others. And that’s ok. God has made us differently, so he has different styles of church for different people.
At Hobart Baptist Church we have our own style. It is changing, but it is built upon a unique history and a unique future. The future will not be the same as the past, but it will be built upon it.
On Sunday, those who were baptised came from our morning congregation, the Church With No Walls group, and our refugee Karen community. No one could have anticipated such an event, but it just goes to show that Jesus is at work building his Church, and part of it is happening amongst us.
Let us continually remind each other that there is only one head of the Church and only one person it exists to serve – and it’s not me (the pastor), it’s not the deacons, it is not the congregation and it is not you. It’s Jesus!
Stephen L Baxter
Baptism: Dying and coming to life again
On September 11 this year a significant event will take place here Hobart Baptist Church. And it has nothing to do with the anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers in New York. On that day the focus of our service will be the baptism of at least ten people coming from across our church including from our Karen community and our Church With No Walls congregation. What a wonderful day of celebration it will be.
Baptism is central to our life as Christians. It marks a significant point in our life of discipleship and is a public declaration that we follow Jesus.
Baptism is not a religious ritual or church tradition. It is far more important than that. Its significance and meaning is found in the death of Jesus. Jesus died in our place and for our sins, but more than that, as the Messiah and Son of God he was victorious over death. His resurrection confirms that victory and is a guarantee of the promise of new and everlasting life.
Baptism therefore is the means by which people who have repented of their sins and chosen to follow Jesus demonstrate their union with Christ. Baptism is a symbol of death and resurrection. By being immersed in water, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, each person acknowledges that Jesus’ death and resurrection is their death and resurrection. Baptism symbolises burial and cleansing; death to the old life of unbelief and resurrection to new life; purification from sin; the receiving of the Holy Spirit and becoming a member of the body of Christ.
Baptism is the defining mark, the crossing over a line, of moving from living in the kingdom of this world to living in the Kingdom of God. In many deep and profound ways, it is a demonstration of the good news of all that Jesus has done for us.
If you are considering baptism have a chat to your pastor or church leader; perhaps God is calling you too in a celebration of faith in Jesus, his death and resurrection.