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Increase Baptisms by Overcoming These 4 Barriers

Bottled water has to be the oddest phenomenon in our culture. There are several different brands, each with its loyal enthusiasts claiming that itʼs better than the rest. For the record, let me say that Iʼm a huge fan of bottled water, and the Fiji brand in particular. I take a bottle of it with me wherever I go. A friend recently asked me about why I love Fiji water so much. I could have explained how it has a higher pH that most bottled water or how human hands have never touched it. Instead, I said, “You just have to try it for yourself to understand.”

Thatʼs also the case in following Jesus. Perhaps this is why the Bible tells us, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Ps. 34:8) Thatʼs what we encourage people to do every week in our churches—to take steps and experience God a little more. Baptism has this idea built into it. As you know, baptism is a command of Jesus. But thereʼs another reason for doing it. In my experience, something wonderful happens in the waters of baptism that cannot be explained but can only be experienced. I guess in some ways itʼs like what Morpheus told Neo in The Matrix: “No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.”

But what happens when someoneʼs unable or unwilling to take that step into the water? How do we help people overcome the barriers to baptism? I believe there are four major barriers to baptism. If we understand them, we can help those whoʼve stopped at the edge of the water to move ahead and obey Christ by being baptized.

Baptism Barrier #1 – Lack of Instruction

You preach a message on baptism in which you teach its significance as a command of Jesus, then you invite people to sign up for your next baptism—and the numbers are much higher than your last baptism when you only made an announcement. Whatʼs happening here? Youʼre helping people overcome a barrier to baptism without even knowing it. Lack of instruction about the importance of baptism keeps many people out of the water. There are many in your church who would be baptized if you simply taught on the subject more regularly. I encourage you to make sure this topic is in your preaching calendar. Also, provide a resource that answers the questions people may have about baptism. At our church, we put a copy of my book Watermark: An Explanation of Baptism in the hands of every person deciding to be baptized because we want them to be fully informed of the decision they are making.

[Download the Free eBook: Watermark: An Explanation of Baptism here]

Baptism Barrier #2 – Tradition

Although I was baptized as an infant, I believe in adult baptism by immersion. In the city I live in, the majority of people were baptized as infants. This is a barrier to adult baptism. Some people say that when you come to Christ, thatʼs when your infant baptism takes effect. I disagree. The Bible says “baptism…now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 3:20-21 NLT)

How do we help people see the importance of adult baptism in light of their family tradition of infant baptism? My encouragement is not to pit the two against each other. Instead, I regularly tell people, “Your infant baptism spoke of your parentsʼ faith. Now, by being baptized as an adult, youʼre honoring your parents because their hope when you were baptized as a baby was that you would follow Jesus. This new baptism allows you to make the decision to follow Jesus your own.” I donʼt fight people on the validity of infant baptism. I just encourage them to obey what the Scriptures command.