Though following Christ is a lifelong journey, it’s important that people make a decision, for Christ, for life. We instituted baptism Sundays at New Vintage Church roughly a year ago. About five times a year, we set aside a Sunday to baptize people and to focus on evangelism and re-commitment to Christ. This of course doesn’t mean people shouldn’t or can’t get baptized before or after. We encourage them to do it whenever they are ready…and not a minute later. Baptism Sundays are simply a regular, scheduled time we set for people to think about where they are with Jesus and whether it’s time for them to make a life-long commitment to Christ. We’ve noticed a rise in the number of people doing it, as well as a rise in our congregational heart for evangelism.
It’s absolutely vital that churches call people to full, lifelong commitment to Christ. Some churches these days, fearing the “judgmental” or “pushy” labels, foster what I call “cohabitation with Jesus.” This is where people feel committed without ever having committed. It’s certainly not the most gracious phrase in the world, but it illustrates what actually happens when a church allows people to simply exist in the church without pastoring them toward full commitment to Christ. Jesus is coming back for his Bride, not his girlfriend. His Bride are those who have betrothed themselves to him fully.
I listened to a podcast a few months ago that dealt with the economic cost of marriage and raising children. The interviewers introduced the listeners to several different couples and how they dealt with the issue. However, one in particular struck me—a couple who lived together unmarried. They owned a home together and had a child together, but stayed unmarried as an economic decision. Here’s the quote that struck me: “We’re just as committed as any married couple. We just don’t see the need to pay that kind of price unnecessarily. We don’t understand why we need a piece of paper to tell us we’re married—which also creates unnecessary risk and cost for both of us.” They went on to describe how they kept their finances completely separated, but split all the bills and costs for the child, 50/50. Let me go ahead and suggest: “If your finances aren’t ‘one’ you’re not as committed to each other as those who are.’” Marriage is about commitment to one another that transcends cost and risk. It’s becoming one flesh.
It’s fairly common, is it not, to believe we can be just as married and committed as you without the cost or risk…not understanding that cost and risk are a part of what makes marriage…marriage. Taking this to the spiritual realm, the Church must help people understand Christ isn’t looking for a date. He has a Bride—and our choice isn’t really how “committed” to Him we want to be. It’s marriage, or it’s nothing. Co-habitation isn’t an option. Baptism is that “pledge of a good conscience toward God” (1 Pet. 3:21) people need to take.
Let me be clear on this, though: co-habitors aren’t people who are just getting to know Jesus or who are in genuine periods of spiritual struggle or discernment. I’m talking about people who go on, month after month, year after year, feeling like “me and Jesus are good, why do we need marriage?” They feel married to Jesus, but aren’t. We don’t need to coerce them into marriage to Christ, but we must also help them understand the difference between attempted cohabitation with Christ and belonging to the Bride.
Find some way: baptism Sundays, weekly invitations, clear biblical teaching on full commitment to Christ, and/or a rigorous one-on-one discipleship program…but don’t let people attempt cohabitation with Christ. It’s very 21st-century and American. But, it’s not biblical. So, let’s work on ending it together.
I don’t like hard sells. I don’t like pressure tactics. However, if we of all people can’t present the Gospel and call people to follow Jesus for life–I wonder how much of a “church” we are.
Jesus’ Bride is fully betrothed to the Bridegroom–and it’s a thing of unspeakable beauty. We shouldn’t be ashamed of this. We should rush to proclaim it.
Question: How does your church call people to follow Jesus?