Perhaps like others, I experienced my own crisis of faith. I was sitting in a church, frustrated by a number of things including the preaching. It was the middle of the service and I simply stood up and walked out. I had enough of ‘church’. On top of walking out, I knew my relationship with Jesus was broken entirely as a result of the way I was living and working. Career came first and my wife Sheri and I were struggling with many challenges including becoming empty nesters. It was a perfect storm that led me to walk and give up.
To make my long story short and after some time away from ‘church’, Sheri and I decided to work on our marriage, and as a part of that work, we needed to find a church that would connect for both of us. We needed gospel preaching and authentic worship and people. My son, Mike, suggested Epikos.
To be fair, I laughed at the idea of going to a college-aged church like Epikos, but it soon became our church and there we found opportunities to serve together as a couple that helped strengthen us as a married couple and brought me back into relationship with Jesus Christ. At some point, I decided to pursue membership. I wanted the privileges of church membership but also I needed the accountability that came with it. It was then I realized that to become a member, a believers baptism was expected. Full stop!
I was baptized as an infant by my father who was a pastor and I believed that only one baptism was required. I had been taught all my life that infant baptism was sufficient so why did I need to go through a believer baptism? Thinking back on it, the decision came down to two things for me. First, I thought I had to ‘renounce’ my infant baptism, and, second, I wasn’t sure I was humble enough to share my testimony of walking out on God and walking into the water to be baptized. Renouncing my infant baptism meant telling my mother that it didn’t count and walking into the water, well, to be honest, my ego needed some adjustments in order to make that happen.
So how did I get to the water's edge? Three things did it for me.
First, Jesus set an awesome example - he was circumcised as an infant and as he began his ministry, the King of all kings walked down to the Jordan River and asked John to baptize him. He demonstrated true humility and a desire to carry out his ministry faithfully serving God, his father. If he could, what would hold me back?
Second, after walking out on church and in reality, walking out on my relationship with God, I saw this believer baptism as a public and personal moment of reflection and confession. Walking into the water and coming back out etched into my memory an experience that only God can give, one of dying to the sin of my past and being raised to new life in Christ. It was a much more defining moment for me than I ever expected. Adding to the experience was the June Lake Michigan water temperature of 49 degrees.
Finally, although I would never renounce my infant baptism, I realized that after studying the scriptures and talking with multiple pastors, that baptism is a deeply personal decision made by a believer when he or she is ready to bury the sin of the past and be raised up as a redeemed follower of Christ.
I still keep pictures of my baptism and the stone I collected at the shoreline to remind me of the day I took this step into the water. Like any of the sacraments Jesus gave us, they are meant to remind us of what is to come. My believer baptism was an important step on my own faith journey, one I took when God called me to the water’s edge.