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Another Hypothetical – Baptism: An Old Problem with a Messy Three Dimensional Twist

October 27, 2015

Imagine this:
My kids and partner and I come to faith in the Anglican Messy Church of St. Weirdos and are all baptised, including my partner, who was baptised as a catholic infant and confirmed as part of the de rigueur catholic education system, but wanted to be baptised a fresh as part of recognising how God had called us to himself as a family. At St. Weirdos they also confirmed my partner and I as members of the anglican church at the same time.

After 4 years we move cities and find the Baptist Messy Church of Lower Sludgehole. They are delighted to see us all, and we quickly get involved. We invite our new friends in the neighbourhood to messy church and they start to come.

After a year they begin to become more curious about faith, and so we invite them over for dinner each friday night and we open the bible together as families. They have an international student boarding with them, and he comes along too, at first for the free feed, but soon becomes interested in our bible adventures and join the discussion. After a few months he also begins to pray with us and his sincerity is extremely moving.

In the course of time, we get to Acts 8…and one of the neighbour children pipes up and says ‘This is like us…we’re reading the bible together, and you are helping us – what’s to stop us being baptised.’ We spend a few weeks talking about baptism, looking at some other baptism stories: Acts 16, Acts 10, Luke 7 and Matt 3. When they realised Jesus had been baptised, that clinched it! Everyone in the neighbour family, including the international student agrees that being baptised is a good idea.

Our family is of course enthusiastic about this and we decide to ask the Pastor at Low-Sludge about baptising our friends at messy church.

Low-Sludge haven’t had any baptisms before at Messy church, but their policy in the morning congregation is that people are baptised, not by the pastor, but by the person who has brought them to faith or been their key discipler.

The Pastor at Lower Sludgehole is feeling uneasy about a Messy Church Baptism, and is also uneasy about baptising the youngest members of the family who are 5 and 7. But as he has been thinking of our friday night family bible study as a ‘missional community’ he asks his 3DM mentor from East Leafy Towers Pentecostal. She says ‘Tell them to do the baptism in their missional community one friday night.’

The Messy Church team however have heard of other messy baptisms and are keen for their first great intergenerational Messy Baptism…

Some questions..and add your own

  • What advice might the regional pastor support person give the Pastor of Lower Sludgehole?
  • What advice might the Baptist College Theology Professor give to the head of the denomination?
  • What do you think of the 3DM mentor’s advice? Is this a wise solution?
  • What does baptism mean in a post-denominational world?
  • Who and What are most important in the thriving of the church and the gospel?
  • Are movements of the church wise to initiate recognition of ancient and traditional sacraments or would they be better to innovate their own rituals
  • Given the model of household baptisms in the New Testament, and the recovery of intergenerational ministry and faith community through movements like Messy Church, is this a practice we should encourage?
  • What are our theological resources for household baptisms?
  • Should denominational leaders be discussing the place of sacraments in Messy Church (planted in their denomination) or should that be the work of the Messy Church movement and BRF? How might a collaborative discussion take place? Whose initiative is this?
  • What other re-orderings are implicit in Messy Church practice and therefore theology, that are potential points of discussion with ecclesial structures?

3 comments

  1. This would be a great question on the Pastoral Methods exam, or as some call it “Practical Theology”!


    • Thanks Doug. You’ve certainly caught the heart of my passion – to inform and transform theological education, and to keep innovations in mission and praxis connected to our finest theological resources.


  2. My question – What are we being baptised into, and what language should we use to describe it? (It’s really part of the post-denomination q. but it feels like an important part.)



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