We often believe that our particular way of “doing” the whole Christianity thing is the only right way of doing things. It’s been a topic of contention among the body of Christ for centuries.
Rachel Held Evans recently wrote, “Our differences matter. We argue with one another because our beliefs and actions are important and we are all invested in representing Christ to the world with integrity, consistency and love. A faith that spans more than 2,000 years and has reached every continent on the globe can't expect homogeneity, nor should we desire it.”
We’re not the same. I’m not sure that God intended us to be the same. After all, Christ’s ragtag band of closest followers included fisherman and tax collectors, older men and younger men, Jewish nationalists and men working for the Roman government.They had vastly different personalities- from ambitious to violent to content with living in the background. They were quite a diverse group.
See, the thing is, we’re all one body. As followers of Christ, we do things differently- we understand the Bible differently, emphasize different celebrations and traditions, worship in different ways- but if we’ve been saved by faith in Christ, we’re united as one. We’re all the body of Christ, and I think that we can all learn things from different Christian traditions.
And I’m curious about those different traditions.
(Small tangent. I believe that one issue in the Christian body today is that we are quick to condemn different denominations without asking questions. Instead of seeking to understand, we seek to find where other people are “wrong.” Let’s not do that, huh? Let’s start to ask questions.)
Today, I’m asking questions of the pastor of an Evangelical Free Church. Pastor Kurt Trucksess is one of the pastors of CrossWinds Church, a ministry in northwest Iowa. He also writes about faith and being a light to the world at Christ 2R Culture.
Ally: Hi, Pastor Kurt! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us today. Why don’t you start by telling my readers a little about yourself?
I have an amazing wife and three amazing kids ranging from a 6th grader to a college freshman. I love Jesus, the Bible and the church. I am thrilled to pastor CrossWinds for the last seven years. Thanks for asking me for the interview.
A: So, what is the meaning of baptism within the Evangelical Free Church?
In the Evangelical Free Church baptism is a public proclamation of a Christian’s trust in Christ. A Christian is typically only baptized once in their life when they are old enough to make a conscious decision to trust in Jesus. I like to say baptism and communion go together. Baptism is similar to a wedding ceremony. It is a one-time public proclamation of love for Jesus in front of others, like a wedding. Communion is similar to an anniversary celebration. It is a regular time to look back and thank God for your relationship.
The Evangelical Free Church Statement of Faith is silent on the issue of baptism. That is not because we don’t believe in it but we realize it has become a source of division between Christians. We do not want it to break fellowship in our denomination.
While almost all Evangelical Free Churches practice baptism by immersion, we allow sprinkling if that is a Christian’s conviction from Scripture.
A: Tell us about what a typical baptism entails at your church.
Baptism at CrossWinds involves sharing your faith in Jesus with a pastor. The pastor also explains the gospel. The pastor emphasizes that baptism doesn’t save a person. It is an outward display of your identification with Christ in your heart.
We also emphasize that someone is saved completely by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not through baptism. If someone has trusted in Christ, we are happy to baptize them.
A: What is the biblical context of baptism, and how does that shape the tradition of baptism in the EFCA?
Baptism in the Bible is always an outward display of the inward reality of faith after someone trusts in Christ. The continual biblical refrain is, “They believed and were baptized.” In the same way baptism is the natural first response after someone trusts in Christ. While you can technically be saved without baptism, we find it peculiar if someone would not choose to pursue baptism as one of their first acts of obedience to Jesus.
A: What about baptizing babies? Why doesn’t the Evangelical Free Church do that? (And what is done instead?)
While we are familiar with the arguments for infant baptism paralleling circumcision, most Evangelical Free Churches do not find those arguments compelling. In place of infant baptism we practice infant dedication. This is the practice of parents bringing their new born child before the congregation where the pastor prays for them.
A: What’s one thing that you’d like us to take away about baptism?
While baptism, is not necessary for salvation, it is necessary if we are to be obedient to Christ. While baptism is important, we should not let it lead to harmful divisions between Christians.
A: Thanks for joining me today, and giving us a look into baptism in the Evangelical Free tradition!
Edited to Add: Some further reading along the same lines- over at His Endless Love.