How Christians Make Big Decisions

I watched it happen last night.

The deacons of Richmond’s First Baptist Church spent approximately three hours considering a motion that would allow Christians from other denominations to join the church without being re-baptized.  It was a big decision for our church.  As one deacon put it, it would break a 230-year tradition.  But at the end of the night the deacons approved the motion, which will now go on to the church for final consideration.

One of the things that impressed me most about last night’s meeting was the spirit in which it was conducted.  There were people who spoke for the motion, who were treated with respect and courtesy, and people who spoke against the motion, who were also treated with respect and courtesy.  One of our veteran deacons spoke in favor of a motion to amend, a motion that was later defeated.  As soon as the vote was counted he stood up and said, essentially, “It didn’t come out the way I wanted it to, but I’m going to live with the outcome: that’s the way Baptists do it.”  And then we went back to considering the main motion.

No voices were raised.  No threats were made.  No one walked out.  No one left in tears.  Throughout the evening the deacons of Richmond’s First Baptist Church conducted themselves like real Christians, even as they wrestled with a big, tradition-breaking decision.  

I’m proud of them. 

At the conclusion of the meeting we sang, “The Church’s One Foundation,” and then we shook hands, hugged, and spoke to each other on our way out the door.  I looked around for some I knew who would have been disappointed by the outcome but didn’t see them.  I tried to think how I would feel if the vote hadn’t gone the way I wanted it to.  I would have been deeply disappointed.  I may not have wanted to stand around and chat afterward.  But I think I would have appreciated the way the decision was made and on the way home I hope I would have had the grace to say, like that veteran deacon, “It didn’t come out the way I wanted it to, but I’m going to live with the outcome: that’s the way Baptists do it.”

12 thoughts on “How Christians Make Big Decisions

  1. What a great church and deacon body! Last night’s meeting was a tribute to the deacons spiritual and emotional maturity. I was at that meeting and it was conducted with a wonderful spirit and filled with grace. It is great to be a part of a church like Richmond’s First Baptist! It is so helpful to be able to have a ‘holy conversation’ about something that matters to all of us. Our mission and ministry continues to be loving the people Jesus loves. Christian hospitality is what we practice!

  2. Holy Wow! What a wonderful image of grace, compassion, understanding, hope, and spirit that took place. Everyone united in conversation and love. The Deacons of First Baptist Richmond ought to be proud (albeit humbly proud) of the way in which this deep heartfelt, spirit-led discussion took place. Thank you for being an example in how Christians and the Body of Christ, can make decisions by keeping Christ at the center. Amen.

  3. Well based on last night’s vote, welcome to the new church of First Community Church because the deacon vote just changed us from being Baptist to being generic. First Baptist Church will cease to exist if this motion is passed by the church. Believer’s baptism is what sets us apart from all other Christians. We still love other Christians but it is what we believe that makes us Baptist.

  4. Congratulations to Jim — and congratulations, especially, to the diaconate of the First Baptist Church of Richmond! I pray your churchwide decision will demonstrate the same love for one another and maturity in Christ.

    To Annette: Speaking as a member of a church that has for many decades had a policy of not requiring people from other traditions to get re-baptized to join, I must take gentle exception to your slippery-slope characterization. We’re EVERY BIT as Baptist as we ever were — and perhaps more so now, because we respect the freedom of conscience of those of our members who feel they should not have to repudiate their own previous baptism to profess their faith in Christ and join with our fellowship. What’s more Baptist than that?

  5. Good for the deacons, I think this is a good move for our church, although I am not sure of the wording. I do not like the words “claim to be of another demonination” either they are or they are not and they need to show prove of that. For instance I can show proof that I was confirmed in 1961 in the Church of England. Others should have some proof that they were either Christened or confirmed in their faith. For me their word would not be enough.

  6. Rob,
    Just because some of us have a conviction that baptism should occur after a profession of faith does not mean we do not “respect the freedom of conscience” of those who wish to be members. I do find it a little offensive that you imply it as a failure if we as a church were to decide we are convicted in our beliefs to keep things the way they are (facebook).

    The only argument I have heard so far to change our policy is that the current one is unloving, or un-accepting, or turns people off. I am sorry if people perceive it this way, but that is not the reason for it!
    In the Great Commission Jesus told us to baptize disciples, not babies. Becoming a disciple of Christ requires a conscious decision and act of profession. Why are we saying that baptism does not, can be passive, and done out of someone else’s will? Our first priority is to Love the Lord first and in turn obey His commands. Do we not see this instruction as a command? Telling people that we do membership that way b/c it is the order in which Jesus stated it, is not unloving, it is obedience. The idea that myself and others in the minority on this subject are afraid of change, or do not care about the feelings of those wanting to not have a believers baptism, could not be further from the truth. We are convicted in the words of Jesus and wish to follow His will first.

  7. Thanks for sharing this. As a member of a church that hasn’t done so well with this sort of thing, I’m encouraged to hear that y’all dealt with the difference of opinion in such a grown-up and Godly way. A difference of opinion does not necessarily a divided house make. It takes grace and humility to keep the house from dividing. May the congregational vote go as smoothly, and may all of us watch and learn from your example. God bless you as you move forward. We’ll be praying for you.

  8. Hello Lorna: I must admit that the word “claim” is not the proper way to express authentic proof that one has been baptised, perhaps; however, I do believe that we must, as Christians, accept the sincere word of the person coming to join our fellowship. I also believe it is a good idea to keep your confirmation from The Church of England. It adds a bit of distinction from our Mother Country even if it isn’t of Baptist origin. I enjoyed perusing your comments.

  9. Mmmmm, sounds a bit like a club. You can only join if you do this….be re-baptized? Let us encourage one another on to love and good deeds:)

  10. Jim,

    Thanks be to God for Christians to move outside division and move into community. Clearly, this honors the Christian experience of other Christians. We can still be Baptists and welcome others into fellowship. My prayers are with the congregation as they move forward.

  11. JIm,

    I have just listened to your speech on the reasons for changing Baptism at First now I understand the reasoning much better and whole heartedly agree with you. I was under the impression that immersion was going to be dropped altogether, now that I know it is not and that it only existing Christians that will not have to go through the process I am in full favour of the change.

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