We are a Church of Christ church, and share this belief with a wide number of other denominations. This is not the one distinctive belief on which we stand. The authority of scripture was the foundational truth at the time of our beginnings in the early 1700s. Baptism seemed a natural conclusion resulting from the study of scripture. As a result, historically, it became the distinctive practice by which we were named.
We believe that the scriptural teaching that we share in common with a number of other churches is to baptise believers, by immersion. This includes some of the churches better known for their baptising of infants.
Scripture does give examples of whole families being baptised. However, in a culture where we encourage the independent thinking of individuals we think it is better for the person to have at least begun to make decisions for themselves. This is usually around the age of 14 or 15. However we do consider each situation that arises.
We first come across baptism in the Bible with John the Baptist baptising people in the Jordan.
( Matthew 3: 1-6 & Mark 1: 4-8 )
This was within the context of Judaism - he was calling ordinary people to a personal and life changing commitment. That commitment involved repentance - an acknowledgment of sin. It was also a life that was consistent with that new faith in God. For example a person with two coats needed to share with the person who had none.
Jesus was baptised by John. This was not because Jesus needed to repent of sin. Presumably he did it as an example for us. Within the last words as recorded in Matthew 28:19 Jesus gave a command that we needed to baptise people as part of their faith commitment.
Paul offered some explanation of baptism in his letters. ( For example Romans 6: 3-14 & Galatians 3: 26-29 ) In both of these passages Paul notes that baptism is about saying goodbye to the old life of sin, and welcoming the new life with Jesus Christ.
After a person has been a Christian for a short time it is appropriate for them to consider baptism.
It isn’t a matter of needing to be good enough because no one is ever good enough, it is simply a matter that the person is convinced that the adventure of the Christian life is for them.
At that point there is a conversation with one of the pastors, and they will give the enquirer some studies on baptism to take away and complete.
Baptism is about declaring faith in Jesus. It usually includes a testimony. This is a brief outline of what you were like before you became a Christian, how you became Christian, and life now.
The service includes words like "Have you turned your back on your old life and are now determined to live for Jesus?
We have heard your declaration of faith in Jesus Christ. I now invite you to come and be baptised."
The early church got the candidates to drink a sip of milk as an indication that this is the beginning and there is a whole life adventure ahead. So we usually do this as well.