Just as money rightly invested will produce more money, so baptism rightly handled will produce more baptisms. This is true in the sense that a beautiful baptismal ceremony will encourage others contemplating baptism to decide to take this step, whereas a poorly organized or carelessly administered baptism will discourage prospects from making their decision. Sometimes a fear or uncertain physical aspects of baptism cause people to delay their decision.
It may be helpful to provide a tour of the baptismal facilities for those contemplating baptism. When they see the depth of the water, the steps leading down to the water, and the private booth for dressing, they will feel more secure. Privacy can be provided by the use of screens or sheets where permanent individual dressing rooms do not exist. Some form of privacy is essential for a dignified baptism. Attention to the physical aspects of baptism can actually deepen the spiritual aspects.
It takes baptism to make baptisms. This is true because the Holy Spirit seems especially near at the time of baptism. Most ministers realize that when prospects are present and a Spirit-filled appeal is made at the conclusion of the baptism, the number of decisions gained will often match the number who have been baptized. This becomes an important consideration in three-to-five-week series of meetings.
Most ministers would agree on two points: (1) We do not want to baptize those who have not had adequate preparation. (2) Early planning will result in a far greater total harvest from the meetings. A consideration of these two points together underscores the desirability of developing a nucleus of baptismal prospects before the meeting begins.
Team Spirit Essential
When the meetings are to be held by an itinerant evangelist, it is possible to have such a nucleus only when there is a real team spirit present between the pastor and the evangelist. The baptismal class conducted at the church school and timed to end about the time the crusade begins, coupled together with the Bible-study interests of pastor and laymen, will provide the needed nucleus for early baptisms. The pastor's Bible class, of course, is another source of candidates for early baptisms.
The pastor who is holding his or her own meeting can best assure success by preparing a nucleus of prospects in advance of the crusade. A spirit of teamwork will lead the pastor to do the same thing for a guest evangelist. As a result of the interest engendered by the meetings, the evangelist will invariably leave for the pastor a larger group of baptismal prospects than were in evidence before the meetings began.
It might be stated as a rule of thumb that for every baptismal candidate prepared before the crusade, you will baptize one in addition to what you would normally get from the crusade. In other words, in a crusade where you baptize 20, if you begin with five persons who are prepared for baptism and who can be baptized early during the series, their early baptism will produce five more candidates for baptism in addition to the 20 you would normally harvest. This means that your total results would be 30 instead of 20, by virtue of having a nucleus to begin with. The application of this principle means that if we invest a group of baptismal candidates in a series of evangelistic meetings, they will actually produce interest in terms of souls.
Something that is often overlooked is the blessing that will come to our own young people from the church school and from Adventist homes when, in addition to going to their class of instruction at the church or church school, they can participate in a baptismal class with interest from evangelistic meetings who are leaving the world or other churches to unite with the Seventh-day Adventist church. The comments and testimonies of the new converts do something for our young people that could never be accomplished in the sheltered atmosphere of a class at the church school.
You can appreciate the effect upon our young people of such comments as "I have searched all my life for a church that really follows the Bible and, thank God, at last I have found it." "I left the church in the days of my youth to follow the ways of the world. I have tried both ways of life now and, believe me, God's way is the best." "I have such a hard time giving up smoking. I wish I had never started."
In most present-day evangelism the pastor does the baptizing and reports the baptisms. When we put all the forgoing facts together, it would certainly be regrettable to baptize candidates a week or two prior to the beginning of an evangelistic crusade, when these baptisms could be conducted in such a way as to produced additional baptisms by having the service in connection with the public evening meetings.
Review Membership List
It is very helpful in advance of a series of evangelistic meetings to review carefully the church membership list. A small group, including the pastor, the church clerk, a member of long standing who knows the membership well, and the guest evangelist, if there is to be one, should sit down with an up-to-date church membership list before them and consider each name on the list. There is the name of Mrs. Anderson. Does she have a husband? If so, does he ever attend church or social functions of the church? What is his attitude toward the church? Was he at one time a member of the church? He may turn out to be a prospect who, with a little help and personal attention, could be among the baptismal candidates a few weeks later.
Are there any young people of baptismal age in the family who have not yet been baptized? Every year that passes beyond the age of twelve that our young people remain not baptized, the likelihood of their ever being baptized decreases. We need to work for those teenage young people of our church families as diligently as we work for any nonmember. When the evangelist knows about these youth, he can take a personal interest in them. This increases the probability that they can be won during the series.
In many Sabbath schools there are, unfortunately, young people in the junior division who are not in church school. Because of this, these young people are not included in the baptismal classes conducted at the church school. Realizing this, many alert pastors plan, in cooperation with the junior leadership, to spend five minutes each Sabbath morning in the junior department. These five-minutes contacts from week-toweek, supplemented by personal visitation, can constitute a baptismal class for some of the juniors who would be missed otherwise.
There are many non-Adventist spouses who could be won if some compatible couple in the church would take these couples as special projects. Usually they know our doctrines quite well, especially if the spouse has been in the church for any length of time. Their great need is not usually Bible studies, but fellowship. Often we are just too busy to give our friendship the very thing that is needed to win souls. Non-Adventist spouses and their Adventist spouses are excellent targets for a friendship-team visitation.
In most churches, with a little encouragement there could be several two-people teams making visits at least one afternoon a week. As these lay teams visit, they learn by doing and become effective and productive workers. With a little encouragement they can be taught to cultivate interests and develop them into active interests. They can also be taught to give Bible studies. By investing time in organizing and coaching such teams, a pastor can have the equivalent of a Bible instructor.
Are we more concerned with planning how we invest our money than we are in planning how to gain the most in a coordinated team effort in evangelism? Let us plan carefully together so that our baptisms will actually produce more baptisms.
George E. Knowles lives in Chula Vista, CA. He was associate director of the It Is Written telecast when he wrote this article.