It was a day I have never forgotten, although more decades have past since then than I would like to admit…It was the day of my baptism at 9 years old.
I remember the excitement of going down into the baptismal tank, the congregation out there looking on, going under the water for what seemed like forever (although it was only a moment). But what I remember most was the moment after it was all over.
I remember standing there dried off and dressed with my hair wet. The service had ended and the people were piling by in that back hallway where I emerged from the staircase coming from the baptismal tank. I remember people going by. I kept thinking someone would stop in excitement to congratulate me and then tell me what the next step was. But no one seemed to pay any attention.
It was as if all the excitement was in getting me and the others marked down on the church’s score card: “Hey, we baptized this many! We had this many saved!” And then that was it…all done…get on with business as usual…the Sunday school…the singing…the preaching…go home…repeat next week…and the next week…and the next week…
Over the weeks that followed I kept thinking somehow I would start having this big change in my life. I would start loving the things of God more. I would start loving others more. I thought some adult was going to come up to me and say, “Ok Martin, now I’m going to teach you how to follow Jesus.” But it never happened. Fuzzy Sunday school Bible stories, preaching services that seemed to make little sense, Royal Ambassador boys meetings where we put aside the books we were supposed to study and instead of teaching us how to live for Christ our leaders spent the hour meeting wrestling with us. The years rolled by and it troubled me that I didn’t become more like Christ, I became more like Satan! By my late 20’s I had quit going to church completely, devoting myself to pursuing my own happiness alone without considering service or gratitude to my Creator.
It would be a wonderful thing if my story was unusual but it’s typical. God has placed me serving in a small church where almost the entire 30 something generation who were drug to church by their parents as kids are missing. They got baptized, they sang beautiful songs, they got Sunday school attendance pins, many are good people by the world’s standards, but rare and few are those who follow and serve the LORD.
So what’s missing? They got the “First Step” right. They told them and told them and told them how to be saved. They told them what Jesus did for them. But then they left them. Piles of worthless attendance books stored in dusty cabinets record their attendance. But it means nothing now in their lives. No one ever stepped up and became part of their lives to mentor…to disciple them…to lead them into the NEXT STEP!
Yet our Lord Jesus Christ clearly commanded it:
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”—Matthew 28:18-20
Satan and his minions hate the idea of young people getting discipled by mature believers. They hate the idea that mature believers would take time out of their busy week to teach them how to live like a follower of Jesus, explaining His Word and will to them, helping them through difficulties, being open and honest about life, praying with and for them, teaching them to pray, teaching them to win other souls for the Kingdom of Heaven and even how to mentor the souls they will win. Yet this is exactly how the first century Church grew so rapidly. Mature believers relentlessly interacted with baby believers of all ages. They no doubt had 12 year olds so knowledgeable in the things of God that they would blow away some of our modern church elders with their knowledge. Today we sideline the 12 year olds, giving them cotton candy teaching and entertainment rather than meaty doses of God’s power for living. Then we wonder why they leave the Church and abandon their faith at such an alarming rate.
What would the legal system do to parents who brought their newborn to church service on Sunday, laid him or her on the altar, and then didn’t return to care for that baby until the next church service? Yet this is just what we have done with our baby believers, expecting them to somehow learn to feed and care for themselves!
It’s time to take responsibility for discipleship in the Church again. Islam has mastered the first century Christian model, building their pagan cultic cells of devoted followers in every community all over the world. No tight age segregations there, the elders have 6 year olds diligently quoting the dogma of their cult. Yet true believers don’t know how to use their own model of community and fellowship. Time to pray and ask God to show your church how to do it. You can’t entertain them into discipleship…it takes work, love, and time…time made for them. The dividend is eternal…
Our church family has been blessed to add six new believers around the age of 11 to 13 over the past two weeks. We baptized all six last Sunday. I thank God adults have stepped up and gotten involved in their lives, “teaching them to observe all things” Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:20). I hope to see a totally different story in their lives in the years ahead than mine…a story of years of service for the LORD that will matter in Eternity…many souls won because of time invested in young lives!
And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.—2 Timothy 2:2