Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
When should a child or young person be baptized? How do you go about discerning the readiness/preparedness of that young person?
Ted L. Christman addresses this pertinent and important doctrinal and pastoral issue in Forbid Them Not: Rethinking the Baptism and Church Membership of Children and Young People
Christman serves as the founding pastor of Heritage Baptist Church, Owensboro, KY. In this booklet, he makes a case to fellow Baptists to rethink how they view the conversion, baptism and means of grace provided by God in the lives of children and young people. One of his major concerns is that Baptists postpone baptism too long, preventing young people from obedience to the Great Commission and the corporate means of grace provided by God. This certainly raises good questions, and though I don’t necessarily agree with all he has written, I do appreciate his attempt at acknowledging critical questions and answering them biblically and pastorally.
As I looked through the booklet, I was struck by the series of questions he recommends asking of children and young people. I include the paragraph preceding and following the list of questions (pp. 20-22; though he included them in a paragraph form, I will bullet them for the sake of clarity. If I used these, I would rearrange them a bit.).
A loving and faithful shepherd will ask the young professor many critical and penetrating questions. While he tries not to be unduly technical or profoundly deep, he cannot avoid being theological. He is seeking to discern if this young soul understands the heart of the Gospel. He is also looking for a transformation of life. Questions such as the following should be asked of the young professing Christian – in a way that is pastoral and not overbearing, overwhelming or intimidating.
Obviously, a youthful convert will possess only a limited understanding of many of these subjects. Nevertheless, there must be some true knowledge of why he or she needs Christ, what He has done for sinners and how the benefits of the atonement are appropriated. Such knowledge, though limited, is theological. There must also be some observable evidence of conversion in the young person’s life. Hence, the need for careful inquiry with parents, Sunday School teachers and others who know the candidate well. Usually, such interviews with the young person are not limited to just one. Ideally, there should be several over an extended period of time. This will give the elders a broader context for their careful evaluation.