Front Row Seat

Front Row Seat

My church thought I was nuts. Out of the blue, I jumped into our church’s baptistery with my clothes on in the middle of the worship service.

Other than my staff, no one, including my own family, had any idea what was going on. My wife later told me that as I did it, she was thinking to herself, What in the world is he doing? She was sitting next to my kids, and later told me they kept saying under their breath, “Oh my gosh. This is so embarrassing!”

Admittedly, it was the most bizarre, utterly random thing I had ever done in our church’s ten-year history. No one in the auditorium knew what was going on. Everyone sat there with shocked looks on their faces.

Our church baptizes older children and adults by immersion, and for logistical reasons we schedule a baptism service once a month. However, we always communicate that our preference is that people get baptized immediately after making a confession of faith.

Nevertheless, holding a standing monthly service is something that works for our church culture.

One day I had an idea. Call it what you will—inspiration, insanity, whatever. I started hearing excuse after excuse from my nonbelieving friends attending our church as to why they weren’t ready to place their faith and trust in Christ. Eventually I became so frustrated with their excuses that one Sunday in the middle of the worship service I stopped my sermon, called our worship pastor and band to come back out on stage, and told the people in the room that the time for making excuses was over.

“This is a holy moment,” I told everyone. “The Creator of the universe crossed heaven and earth to make it possible for you to spend eternity with Him after you die, and He’s offering His forgiveness to you right now.”

The band began playing in the background.

“No more excuses!” I repeated over and over again. I had been preaching on the parable of the lost sheep—the story of the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep in the open country to go look for that one lost sheep.

“That’s you,” I said. “Ever since you veered off on your own path, God has been worried sick over you like a parent that’s lost a child! He’s never stopped looking for you. From the moment you left His arms, He’s turned over heaven and earth to bring you back.”

Then I told everyone that we were going to give them an opportunity to make the decision to become a Christ follower, and right then, just like in the book of Acts, get baptized.

“I know you might be scared,” I continued. “I know many of you think that God can’t forgive you for things you’ve done. I know you are concerned about what your friends and family will think. But today’s the day when we’re not going to make excuses. No more excuses.”

Then I folded up my sermon notes, pushed my podium to the side, and walked to the edge of the stage.

“I’m going to do something we’ve never done in the history of our church. I’m going to jump into the baptistery with my clothes on. And I want you to join me. That’s right. If you’re ready, I want you to join me, in your clothes, right now.”

Then I walked off the stage, went around the corner, and walked into the baptistery. And at first nobody came forward. Nobody.

Okay, this is going to get embarrassing, I thought.

Then one person came forward.

Then another person.

Then another.

And another.

Pretty soon a line of people wrapped around the corner of the hall leading to the baptistery. I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked.

Again, let me stress, this was totally out of character for our church.

Wives brought up husbands. Parents came up with children.

People who came to our church that day for the first time came forward. Every time someone came up from the water our congregation stood up and cheered like someone had scored a touchdown at a football game. It was absolutely amazing.

Each time I looked up, I saw another person make a decision to walk out of the crowd toward the baptistery. After people got baptized, others ran up to them and hugged them in their drenched clothing. The miraculous power of God’s Spirit hung in the air while people sang, clapped, and made decisions to follow Christ. I had never been a part of anything like it before in my life.

Forty-four people came forward that day.

My friend baptized his two teenage kids.

Wives baptized husbands.

Friends baptized friends.

Neighbors ran up and baptized neighbors.

One after another, people made commitments to Christ, repented of their sins, and got baptized on the spot by those who had been Christ’s ambassadors in their lives, just like we read about in the book of Acts. My heart was overcome with awe as I watched person after person see the results of all the time and effort invested in trying to reconcile lost friends and family members to God.

The tears. The smiles. The embraces of so many. All I could think about was how privileged we were to partner with God in this incredible act of redemption.

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