Baptism at Youth Camps?

A church member asked whether it's wrong for para-church ministries to do baptisms. I said "yes," and explained the quality control concerns if a youth camp does baptisms. I said it was a church ordinance. I said much more, too. What would you have said? Thoughts?

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josh p's picture

I would have responded as you did. I would have probably included a concern about baptism being done apart from the parent’s input and direction. That would be a huge red flag for me.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Yes, that is a very good point. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture

Editor

This is one part of the conversation:

  • Lady: "Where in the Bible does it say it's just a church ordinance?" 
  • Me: "That's the pattern we see in the NT; people are saved, baptized and added to the church. Even traveling evangelists are only sent out by a local church, so they operate under that aegis."
  • Lady: "Workers at youth camps are sent out by local churches, too." 
  • Me: "Maybe. Or, maybe they're just staff members. Maybe they're not even Baptists, and have a wrong idea about what baptism means. I have no idea if they've evaluated the candidate, know the candidate, explained what baptism means and what it doesn't mean, and performed a Christian baptism (i.e. immersion). They've also prevented the pastors and congregation from providing input for church membership, which is supposed to accompany baptism."

Still, I see her point. I hadn't considered that. It's hard to emphasize the importance of ecclesiology if you've been raised to not care about it. I'm not a "B"aptist, but I do firmly believe ecclesiology is important. I'm not nasty about other denominations, but I do believe what I believe about the importance of the local church. That isn't a popular opinion for some people who've been brought up to have a wishy-washy, amorphous view of the local church. I'm not convinced I did the best job in answering her (it was in the context of a public church meting and discussion about our doctrinal statement, and I was exhausted after preaching two services), but I did my best. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

pvawter's picture

In Matthew 28:18-20, baptism is connected with training in obedience as key elements of the disciple-making process. For a parachurch org to baptize someone is to short circuit this process. Training in obedience demands the accountability of local church membership, because parachurch orgs can't do church discipline.