Baptism Central


That’s the name of a DVD that arrived in my mail today from the Florida Baptist Convention’s Evangelism Strategy Department. The subtitle is, “Unlock the Meaning of Baptism!” The blurb on the cover says, “This DVD will answer many questions children (and even adults) are afraid to ask.” It is a high quality production (obviously done on a Macintosh!) that is designed to help prepare children for the ordinance of baptism. Most of the actors are children, with the exception of “Field Agent Harper” (see below), who looks to be in his twenties. Practical things are covered, like what to wear, what to expect when going under water, be careful not to slip on wet floors, etc. But theological things are covered as well.

(The DVD opens with 2 girls on swings)

First girl: “Hey Hannah, you wanna come to my baptism Sunday?”

Second girl: “What’s a baptism?”

First girl:”Baptism is the celebration that I asked Jesus into my heart.”

“A baptism is kind of like a birthday party. A birthday party celebrates the day you were born into your family. Baptism celebrates the day you were born into God’s family.”

(cut to a man and boy standing in a baptistry; the man is “Field Agent Harper”)

Field Agent Harper: “Hey! I look good.”

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(later Field Agent Harper appears in the baptistry again, this time in a wetsuit with a snorkel and goggles, to show how baptism is to be performed)

Among other things that Field Agent Harper says is that “the pastor will normally ask you one question: and that question is, ‘Have you trusted Jesus as your personal Savior?'”

At this point, Field Agent Harper–wetsuit, snorkel and all–“baptizes” a boy “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

The desire to help children (and adults) understand and prepare for baptism is commendable. But this DVD strikes me as one more example of the quest for relevance resulting in the loss of significance. Baptism is a vital ordinance–sacrament, if you will–of the church. Many of our forefathers suffered greatly at the hands of persecutors because of their commitment to observe it according to the New Testament pattern. To see it being treated so flippantly detracts from its meaning and purpose.

Marshall McLuhan’s famous dictum, “the medium is the message,” is hardly given a thought in our rush to relevance. How many times have you heard that we must change our methods without diminishing our messsage, as if methods are completely indifferent things? The next time you meet someone who believes that any medium is appropriate to convey any message ask him to convey Handel’s Messiah using smoke signals.

But perhaps this Baptism Central DVD was an inevitable extension of the wave started 5 or 6 years ago by First Baptist Church of Springdale, Arkansas. A former Disney designer was hired by the church to design a new children’s worship area that included two sets, Toon Town and Planet 45. Included in the design is a special baptistry which is built in a fire engine. When a child is baptized, the sirens sound and confetti is fired out of cannons. I am guessing that this probably helps children overcome any hesitations that they to be baptized.

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30 Responses to “Baptism Central”

  1. I have not received this dvd yet. But it sounds like the best thing we can say about it is that it was probebly done on a Macintosh.

    Do you think they will have a sequel on the Lord’s supper?

  2. “Hey kids, don’t be nervous about communion either! We’ve got crazy-straws for the juice and smiley-face wafers!”

    The trivialization of all this breaks the third commandment and robs kids of the mystery of it all.

  3. It makes me wonder if it is safe to take kids to church anymore. Christian parent must take charge of the training of their children.

    This is nothing compared to the evangelism inflicted on kids by well meaning adults. I recall when our foster daughter came back from a neighbors VBS excited to tell me she was saved on the van ride. When I asked her how she was saved she replied, “The man on the bus said he could save me and I let him.” That was a real wake up for me.

  4. There’s a part of me that wants to think that this is just some dream. We’re all in Oz with munchkins and flying monkeys and poppies and the Emerald City. Then I wake up and tell myself that this is reality, and every day now somebody releases something new and absurd that trivializes Scripture, Christ, the ordinances, (insert doctrinal, epistemological, or ethical words here).

    As it was in the days of Noah…

  5. Just when you think we’ve reached the bottom . . .

    I think “Baptism Central” is a great name. It aptly describes what the SBC as an entity and too many churches focus upon. Not conversion, not repentance, not the substitutionary atonement of Christ, not justification (what’s that?), not grace, not the absolute holiness of God and the depravity of man, not the glory of God. A decision and a dunk and another star in our statistical crown.

    Now, on to the associational baptisms.


  6. I’ve never heard of a seeker-sensitive sacrament before!

    Gee…This sounds like more fun than asking Jesus into my heart. Repentance? Confession? Why, when I can get baptized (sorry, I meant dunked) by a snorkel-clad man in a strobe-lit baptistry (excuse me, I meant a dunk tank).

    Then again, this sounds like what I do with the neighborhood kids in the pool. Does that mean I have baptized them? Should I mark them down on a decision card? It would certainly bring us closer to meeting our convention-wide baptism goals…

  7. Hmm..this church seems to have an electronic sign in the baptistry. I’m guessing some sadistic Lutheran decided to have a good laugh when he was contracted to build this.

  8. Tom,

    I know this question comes to you often, but when do we say enough is enough, and separate from the foolishness so often perpetrated in the SBC. I’m not looking to leave, in fact have warded off attempts by well meaning men in my congregation, but I guess I am plagued by the question, “What would have to be done to make me say ‘adios'”. I don’t have a good answer, but I know you have thought about it at length and if you feel comfortable might be a good subject one day.


  9. Pastor Ascol: I have seen the FBC SPringdale campus up close, and it is frankly astonishing.

    I wonder: in a head-to-head comparison in terms of cost and impact, how does a mega church like that (which now has 2 locations, btw) compare to a medival cathedral?

  10. How dare you mention the FB congregation of Springdale and its
    twin congregation called Pinnacle Hills of nearby Rogers in anything but the glowing language of the pastor (and his staff) who yearns to be a future president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

    Don’t you care about being denominationally and politically correct?

  11. Just when I have been arguing (discussing) with a fellow elder in my independent Baptist congregation about the possibility of joining the SBC and being involved in the reform, you have to go and blog this.

    I am beginning to think he might be right. Why try to reform something that is this messed up. It didn’t work with the Catholics.

  12. Well,

    In all fairness Doug, it didn’t work with the Catholics because, let’s be honest, everybody here would be rounded up and executed if the SBC was anything close to France. I’ve been saying for many years now that the reformation in the SBC will come the same way the “liberalization” of the SBC came many years ago…slowly and through the seminaries. It took a while for that to happen, but one day the Convention awoke and found that many had bought the liberals’ epistemology and had set about changing doctrine. Calvinist professors at SBTS, the few at SWBTS, and a few I know at SEBTS (that I and only I know about that don’t “advertise,”…one of which is a very well known figure in NT scholarship, not just the ones that are openly), and the few at the other seminaries, including James White teaching through GGBTS all have had a profound influence on the SBC. As their students graduate, they take what they know back into the Convention with them and the churches begin to reform.

    Unlike the liberals and neo-orthodox, the conservatives cannot say that Reformed folks do not affirm the BFM or the inerrancy of Scripture. It must really irk some of them, and that, in my little part of the world, is why they resort to straw man arguments. The non-Reformed folks are in a real pickle, because they can’t turn to hardcore Arminian theology, because those theologians generally deny substitutionary atonement for the governmental view, and they tend to be generally more liberal. Most Baptists believe in general atonement these days, but most Baptists are also usually shocked to find that “general atonement” to the rank Arminian doesn’t mean “substitutionary atonement.” When they learn that, they begin to ask questions. I find that rather ironic since particular atonement is usually “the” doctrine that they find the most unpalatable when they find out about Calvinism. As they learn more, I generally watch them discover the axiom that penal substitution and general atonement do not go hand in hand and leave you with a consistent theology. That leaves them with shallow and easily refutable arguments, and the battle becomes joined over fairness and reasoning from the Scriptures, which is a fair fight, so to speak.

  13. Perhaps we can all sit around with Thom Rainer and thank God that we didn’t go the way of the CBF, but these things are happening after the so-called conservative reformation. We could also say that these things are happening in spite of that “reformation,” but the fact that we have this not from a local church but a state convention (not to mention granny Eloise at the IMB) makes it nearly inescapable to conclude that these things are an outgrowth of the conservatives in leadership.

    I’m not blaming conservative theology, but there is something in their theology that leads to all this lunacy.

  14. I plan to address some of the questions about our responsibilities and relationships in light of this kind of foolishness in a later blog…possibly tonight.

    May the Lord have mercy on us.

  15. A little off subject…All of you in the blogosphere, please say a prayer for those of us who live in south FL. A tropical storm – due to be a hurricane – is headed this way.

    Tom, we’ll be praying for you. It seems as though you might be closer to landfall than we are at this point. If you or your church needs anything (assuming it come your way), New Hope will be happy to assist.

  16. Brian:

    Thanks for your offer to be of help to us. We had quite a ride last year with the hurricanes. As you pray, I would appreciate you remembering my family. My wife and I are scheduled to leave tomorrow for Seattle, leaving behind our 6 kids in the care of her parents.


  17. Tom:

    I’m sure leaving your kids behind will be a challenge for you, and especially for your wife. Consider yourselves prayed up.

    We’re still rebuilding after last year. Our new sanctuary building is almost complete.


  18. ^Well at least he’s honest about it. After all, the Arminians in the SBC usually say they are “moderate Calvinists” or, more commonly “Biblicists.” Isn’t it ironic that they’ll throw around “hyper-Calvinist” in reference to us, but when we say, “You’re an Arminian,” they don’t want to own up to it or complain that we’re “followers of men who are using labels.”

  19. Best evidence I have seen in awhile for paedobaptism. Other than most of the Christian world does it anyway, and the first guy we have recorded doing it during the reformation practiced sebaptism.

    And it causes all sorts of “did i really mean it the first time” confusion.

  20. responce to jthomas899 and jvpastor: if you want to remain biblical (i.e., believers baptistm) and leave the SBC there are reformed baptists. & I hope you are kidding about paedobaptism 😉

  21. This actually FIELD AGENT HARPER…its great to know that our DVD has found such a wide audience…obviously this is a teaching tool used after a child has recieved christ but has questions about what goes on in the baptistry and what does it mean…this was produced to answer simple questions that many kids have about the process…but we appreciate the humorous remarks and the fact stay up to date on the latest trends…and YES IT WAS DONE ON A MAC.


  22. That feild agent harper… what a jokester. Really, who would ever make a baptism video that looks fun? I think all these negative remarks really help. Who knows maybe a sequel called “something about communion” should come out next. This whole site reminds me about this guy who said something about those without sin cast the first stone. Maybe you should check it out.

  23. the real problem is that we have time to sit around and talk about things like this and how bad they are and most people here seem to argee thats great now get together and do something about it. I am 19 and i believe in the lord with all my heart but in america today i see a church that is split we are not a body we are buildings and i dont know what to hope for… yes, there a church and people that do have christ as there focus… however are there better thing that we can put out time to.. so the movie is a flop… it happens no one is perfact so make one comment and then say something constructive, any one can tar things down but we as christian need to be builders… but what do i know i am only 19 and i am sure the next 2 years of my life will be eye opening but thats what i see for now

  24. I personally liked the video and I do not see it as any kind of trivialization of the scripture. It is simply a way for children to understand what baptism is. If you are going to tell them that they need to accept Christ and be baptized, then they need to be told what it is, IN A WAY THAT THEY CAN UNDERSTAND. Stop being so uptight. Baptism can be a scary thing for children. This video simply presents it a way that they can comprehend.

  25. How can children be expected to understand the same terms as adults? While you see this as trivial I see it as a important tool to ease the fears of children. Why does baptism have to be a mystery? Why can’t it be something exciting? They are starting their new life with Christ! It’s not like they are being tricked into being saved. I’m not really sure how you can justify the words you have said. How can you be upset that you think the Word of the Lord is be misconstrued, when you are making light of a ministry who is seeking God’s will by doing His work? I think the comparison to crazy straws and smiley-face wafers crosses the line. We are supposed to be a church united. It seems like showing Christ’s love is going to be an impossible feat when we can’t even love each other. How can we love those whom we disagree with, those who blatently turn away God’s precious gift of His Son? It seems like all we have time for anymore is to criticize the church, the bride of the Lord.

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