EVANSVILLE, IN - “We have been inconsistent in our doctrine and practice for too long!” exclaimed Pastor Jacob Harris to his congregation. “We cannot continue to say we believe one thing, but then not follow through with it. That will all change tonight.”
A bit of background may help explain what’s going on at Smyrna Christian (Disciples of Christ) Church. It all began a few months ago when Deacon Jim Vinson approached Pastor Harris about Acts 2:38 (And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” ESV). Vinson wanted to know how Harris best thought that verse should be interpreted.
Harris told TBNN about the conversation. “I simply told him that the verse means what it says. The text is clear. Peter tells everyone that when a person repents and is baptized, then he receives the Holy Spirit. In other words, salvation comes after both repentance and baptism.”
Vinson continued to be confused and asked Harris, “What happens if a person repents, but doesn’t have a chance to be baptized before he dies? What if he repents at church, but dies in a car wreck on the way home prior to the evening service baptism? Is he still saved?”
Harris told us, “I admitted to Jim that this is one of the hard teachings of scripture – if a person isn’t baptized then he isn’t saved. I sure hope this has never happened, but repentance by itself is not enough. Peter told us that we must be baptized or we don’t get the Holy Spirit.”
Deacon Vinson then asked something Harris wasn’t expecting. “If this is true, then why don’t we have a 24 hour baptism ministry in place? I mean, what happens if a person repents at 2 AM? We need to get him baptized as soon as possible. He is in too much eternal danger otherwise!”
Harris immediately realized the inconsistency between his doctrine and practice. He also knew that Deacon Vinson was correct. Their church had a responsibility to get anyone who repents into the baptistery immediately. That led to him saying, “We have been inconsistent in our doctrine and practice for too long!” Harris continued, “Starting tonight, we will be instituting the first Disciples of Christ 24 Hour Baptism Ministry. We will open this up to all people who have repented, regardless of denomination.”
A new committee was put in place that very night. Almost everyone in attendance at church signed up to be part of this new, one-of-a-kind, emergency ministry. The church even agreed to use its van as part of this community outreach.
This is how it works; it is a simple process. Three church members are stationed at the church at all times. The van is always full of gasoline and ready to go. The members wait in a special room, furnished with a TV, couches, X-box, cookies, Coke, and the hotline telephone. The special phone number is 1-800-GET-SAVE(D).
As soon as a call comes in, the members pile into the van, turn on the siren and flashers, and rush to the repenter’s home. They carefully load him or her into the “baptizulance” on a stretcher, and quickly rush back to the church. While all this is happening, one of the pastors is simultaneously awakened by his beeper. Ideally, everyone arrives at the baptistery at the same time.
Once at church, the repenter is quickly submerged, and then is explained the full meaning of what just happened. He is then congratulated by everyone involved on getting saved. There is both a sigh of relief and the thrill of a saved soul once the person breaks the surface of the water.
According to Pastor Harris, “We want to be consistent with and faithful to scripture. We just had to make some changes in the way we do things. This emergency baptism ministry allows us to serve the entire Evansville community because no other churches do what we do. It is quite a rush to get people saved on a regular basis like this.”