- June 5, 2008
GRANBURY—Until the last moment, there was no assurance Jaden Solomon was going to enter the baptismal waters. He was nervous.
While it’s not unusual for a 15-year-old to be a bit nervous in the baptistry, his reasons were out of the ordinary. He wasn’t being baptized; he was baptizing someone else.
At Gateway Community Church in Granbury, when a church member leads someone to faith in Christ, the personal evangelist is given the opportunity to perform the baptism. Solomon had led 10-year-old Chase White to faith in Jesus Christ.
“That’s not going to be the case at Gateway. We’re committed to involving our children and young people in every area of worship.”
Risenhoover’s plan for his congregation is by no means limited to youth leading people to Christ. His goal is to help every member lead someone to Christ and baptize someone in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Over the past several months, several laypeople—men and women—have performed baptisms at Gateway. Fifteen people have been baptized so far this year, with another dozen awaiting baptism.
Statewide, Texas Baptists have been challenged to ensure every person in the state has an opportunity to respond to the gospel by Easter 2010.
Risenhoover’s vision of each member winning someone and then baptizing them came after reading the annual reports of Paluxy Baptist Association, where he said he found 22 churches had baptized 171 people.
“What we’re finding is that it’s a life-changing experience for the person doing the baptism, as well as for the one being baptized. When a person baptizes another individual, it gives them a better spiritual understanding as to the real meaning of baptism,” Risenhoover said.
Some people have walked the aisle in the traditional fashion, but then they have chosen someone other than the pastor to perform their baptism, which is fine with him, he noted.
“I’ve been looking at the New Testament church. And it seems to me we’ve gotten so far from that model of a New Testament church in that the paid clergy does everything and the people are left out,” he explained.
The practice has excited his congregation that swelled to 320 on Easter but averages about half that, he said.
“I’m confident it will ignite the fires of revival in our church,” he said.
In addition, Gateway also is employing its younger members in preparing and serving the Lord’s Supper.
“Baptism and communion are not exclusively the bailiwick of ordained clergy,” he said.
“And people who try to prove with Scripture that they are have to do some unusual shenanigans and manipulation, mixing a little Scripture with a lot of tradition.
“Every Christian—man, woman, boy or girl—is a soldier in the army of Christ, and none should be limited as to what they can do for the cause of Christ. The Christian army is too short-handed to play Mickey Mouse games as to who’s in charge of this and who’s in charge of that.”