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.
In Western countries in which Christianity has had a great influence, not only past but in the present, becoming a Christian and being baptized does not cost much and it does not, for some, mean much.
Often in countries that are Islamic or Hindu, those that are opposed to Christianity, baptism is the point at which a person is considered dead, no longer a part of the biological family. Interestingly, baptism in those instances carries a triple meaning: death with Christ, death to self and death to the previous way of life, and in their case their family.
This is true for all experiencing baptism, but in these countries these deaths carry with it real consequences and it may possibly lead to a fourth death, physical death. Although we in the West do not face this fourth implication of death at present, it is foolish for us not to consider these consequences since ultimately our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers (Eph. 6:10-18) , who want to steal, kill, and destroy (Jn. 10:10).
As we learn and grow in our understanding of global Christianity, it is important we stand with and learn from our brothers and sisters in various parts of the world. It is also important that we stand with those who are being persecuted for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is illuminating and convicting to read the report of our brothers and sisters in South Asia. When they prepare new believers for baptism, they do so with Seven Questions for New Converts in an Asian Country (Cf. “South Asian Nation Struggles to Shape Itself,” Mission Network News (1-17-12).
Asian Access (or A2), a Christian missions agency in South Asia, listed a series of questions that church planters must ask new believers who are considering baptism. (Due to safety concerns, Asian Access does not mention the country's name.) The country is predominantly Hindu, but over the past few decades Christianity has grown in popularity—especially among poor and tribal peoples. These are the seven questions asked to help determine a new convert's readiness to follow Christ:
If the new convert answers yes to all of these questions, then A2 leaders invite that person to sign on the bottom of the paper that of their own free will they have decided to follow Jesus. But here's the risk: if a new convert signs the paper and is caught by the government, he or she will spend three years behind bars. The one who did the evangelizing faces six years in prison.
If you were being baptized, would you sign? If you were the pastor, would you perform the baptism? Would you consider it a joy and privilege to do so?
Dear Lord, please protect and bless our brothers and sisters in these countries, for the sake of the name of Christ. Amen.