Do you have a fairly new believer in your small group? Do you want to help them solidify their faith in Christ so they can endure trials and tribulation (Mark 4:17)?
How many times have we seen someone make an enthusiastic decision for Christ only to back-out of it in the near future or even in the next week of their life? Unfortunately, this is a common occurence in our churches today. I believe small group leaders have an amazing opportunity to “water the seed of salvation” that is deposited in a person’s heart when they make a decision for Christ.
The key is to guide them down a path that will bring them closer to Christ. There are several things we can do for a new believer such as encouraging daily devotions and prayer, etc. Today I want to focus on a practical step you can lead people to take that will make them stronger disciples of Christ: Water Baptism.
The word for “baptism” in the Greek language is “baptizo” which means to immerse, to plunge or to dip.
I do not believe water baptism is a technical requirement for salvation. I believe it is a holy and helpful ceremony God has given us to affirm our inward decision for Christ and make our faith official. It can be likened to the wedding rings that are exchanged when a husband and wife make their ‘permanent union’ official. I believe it is a ceremony that represents a free will decision to follow Christ. This is why a person should be old enough to understand the meaning before being water baptized. Biblically speaking, water baptism is not a parent’s decision for their kid. It’s a decision a person makes for themselves. To say it is an absolute requirement for salvation is too legalistic for my revelation of the Father. To dismiss it as an unimportant discipleship step is to miss it’s value and the spiritual dynamics that it encompasses. Let’s look at 5 Benefits of Water Baptism:
1. Introduces A Life of Obedience To Christ
Jesus commanded us to be water baptized (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:16). Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” The Christian lifestyle is one of daily obedience to Christ and His Word. If we want to disciple a new believer to begin making this adjustment in their life, the first thing we can do is point out one of the first commands Jesus gives those who believe in Him: Be water baptized.
In a profound example of leadership, Jesus modeled water baptism to us by being water baptized Himself! Even though He was the sinless Son of God who was in perfect communion with the Father, even though John the Baptist was awkwardly resistant to baptizing Jesus, Jesus became an example for us when He got water baptized in Matthew 3:13-17. Remind a new believer, Jesus will never ask them to do something that He Himself was not willing to do.
2. Develops A Public Faith
Jesus desires us to be witnesses for Him (Acts 1:8) and not keep our faith in a closet. Yes, it’s a personal decision, but Christ’s mission is to lead every person to this same personal decision as well. Jesus also said in Matthew 10:32-33, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”
Water baptism is a public confession of one’s faith in Christ. Your small group member will have a stronger identity in Christ as they allow others to see them as a follower of Christ. It’s the first step on the journey of a thousand miles of testifying of Christ’s saving power. It’s been said, “Water baptism is an outward sign of an inward transformation.”
3. Deepens One’s Commitment To Christ
Many times, people make an emotional decision for Christ at an altar and then never think about it again afterwards. Nothing wrong with emotion, it’s a powerful thing God has given us to enrich our lives on earth, but our faith can’t be based on that alone. The entire process of deciding to get baptized, to attending a class to further understand it, to the actual ceremony, allows a new believer to think more about the life-changing decision they’ve made. It proves to themselves that what they’ve experienced is significant enough to warrant getting out of their comfort zone and into a pool of water for Jesus.
4. Increases Connection To the Body
The Bible says the church is the body of Christ and through baptism we are joined to that body (1 Cor. 12:12-13). God hasn’t designed us to live out our faith alone. He wants new believers to get connected to the family of God. Water baptism introduces a person’s story to the church and makes them a familiar face. Thus, water baptism includes the Biblical component of ‘fellowship’ as well. God is so smart!
5. Personalizes Christ Death and Resurrection
Romans 6:4 says, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Galatians 3:27 says, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
As a person is fully immersed into the water, they experience their repentance of their sin and connect to Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for that sin. As they are raised up out of the water they are filled with the hope of Christ’s saving power! The Gospel becomes a personal message and personal experience through baptism.
In conclusion, water baptism is a valuable tool for a small group leader to add to their ‘discipleship tool belt.” As you are talking one-on-one with believers in your group about their faith, don’t hesitate to ask them if they’ve ever been water baptized. Is your church having a water baptism Sunday in a few weeks? Add it to your list of announcements to share at your small group meeting. As a spiritual leader, take advantage of this celebration to help the people in your small group grow spiritually and follow Christ.