Baptism isn’t a necessary event that you have to endure in order to go to Heaven (according to many Christian doctrines that I’ve come across), but it is always encouraged. Mr. Paul Turner, the author of the book, describes his baptism and gives two reasons as to why it was uncomfortable.
1. Paul’s church’s baptism included getting completely dunked underwater in a pool, in front of the Church audience (all whilst wearing nothing but a blue smock).
2. Your heavy, overweight Pastor is also wearing nothing but a blue smock, and you’re ever so close to the Pastor’s semi-nude body.
I’ve been baptized twice- once when I was a very young boy in a Catholic church, and once when I was an older boy in an extremely fundamentalist church. The former involved sprinkling of the water upon my forehead, the latter involved the complete submergence of my body in a pool full of water. The second baptism in particular didn’t go as smoothly as I wasn’t very trusting of the parishioners in charge.
Before many Christian’s get baptized, they have to make the declaration of salvation. Many times, this is done during altar calls (especially for newcomers). The author’s experience and my own are similar in how our churches would have an altar call at the end of every service. You’d see one or two visitors get up, albeit timidly, and walk to the front of the church where they’d accept Christ Jesus into their hearts. In many cases, you’d never see them again.
Here are the tell-tale signs you’re going to encounter an altar call [according to the book].
1. When the pastor says he wants every head bowed and every eye closed at the end of the Sermon.
2. The people with certain altar call responsibilities (such as deacons, ushers, musicians, etc) will be making their move, rustling about.
3. Hearing the word stanza. (I don’t understand this one).
4. If the pastor claims, whilst looking around the room for potential converts, that he sees “that hand”.
5. If the song during the altar call begins with “just” or “all”.
Altar calls are meant for one thing, and only one thing- soul winning. It is every righteous Christian’s duty to win souls for the kingdom of the Lord, and under that standard I was a particularly bad Christian. Not only did I never win a soul in my time as a Christian, I would tend to hide my Christianity. At the end of the day, I would repent for being a particularly bad Christian, and pray for courage. I never received it.
When a “new dead soul” (NDS) walked through the doors at our church, his or her presence initiated a carefully orchestrated soul winning procedure designed to ensure the best possible odds for a quick and effortless soul conversion… A first-time visitor was labeled as an NDS using preliminary information gathered by the head usher. He would find out the individuals name, age, sex, and current church membership. The usher would then make the call on whether the individual qualified for NDS status.
-Excerpts from the Book
My own church wanted to be as cunning as possible. First, the pastor would begin the service asking everybody to greet those around them. Once the pastor concluded that everybody seemed comfortable, he would ask if there were any new visitors that day. People would raise their hands for recognition, not knowing that this action would haunt them later on in the service. The pastor and the ushers took note, and when the end of the service came about, these people were bumbling targets with minimal chance of escape. I once held the job of getting new convert’s information at the end of the service, for Church records.
Sometimes I would see the reluctance in these people’s eyes, and it is only until now that I can look back and see that something was wrong. Who were we to tell these people what they had to accept. We championed the notion of not judging others, but reeked of hypocrisy.
The author follows up his thoughts about “saving souls”, and condemns the act of portraying salvation as something you can obtain by repeating a variant of the “sinners prayer” and instead calls for establishing friendship first. I’d much rather people establish friendships for the sake of friendship rather than with the hope of “saving” the individual at some point in the future.
I was never at peace with myself.