Christians who are not clergy are often times instructed by the church to disobey Jesus when they are not allowed to baptize their disciples. The practice of baptism is not something Christ gave to the “clergy,” church organization or institutions, but to all disciples. One of the sayings in our own church-planting movement is: “The Bible doesn’t command us to be baptized but to be baptizers” (Matt. 28:19–20).
There is absolutely no biblical support for the idea that only the clergy in the local church can baptize. Though our traditions and experience may reinforce such standards, the Bible does not. In fact, it is my opinion that the Bible is slanted in the other direction. Those who are seen to be the leaders in the New Testament are often not the ones who are doing the baptizing but instead their disciples are. It specifically states that during Jesus’ baptizing he wasn’t actually the one doing the baptizing but his disciples were. Paul states that he is glad he only baptized a few in Corinth.
It is amazing how much damage the simple idea of baptizing another has caused through church history. People have been killed, cults have been initiated, denominations started and split, heretics burned at the stake, and parachurch organizations have been formed—all because we view baptism in a strange, unbiblical fashion. If we would only read the Bible and take it for what it says literally, rather than defend our “sacred” traditions, the church would be healthier.
We have created spiritual boundaries to manage spiritual practices, but these boundaries are not in the Bible. When false boundaries begin to take on a biblical sense of authority, they are quite insidious. We accept them as truth and even rise to defend them as though they come from the Bible, when they do not. Unfortunately, we are often willing to submit to these false divisions more than to Scripture itself. This is how the subversive strategy of the Enemy causes much damage. Because we have allowed artificial boundaries to separate Christian groups weird things happen.
For instance, one motto for a parachurch ministry has been: “To fulfill the Great Commission in this generation.” This seems honorable, except that they have rules in place that prevent them from ever fulfilling the Great Commission in any place. Right in the middle of the Great Commission is the command to baptize disciples, which they strictly forbid in order to maintain their parachurch status since (in their view) only churches can baptize.
I want to raise awareness of the weird, almost schizophrenic policies we have made in the church. Whether it is separating a spiritual family into voting “members” and silent “nonmembers” or telling Christians to fulfill the Great Commission by disobeying it, false and artificial divisions have caused some strange practices to be established.