Southern Baptist pastor Steven Furtick made headlines for the careful orchestration of his megachurch's "spontaneous" mass baptisms. Baptisms at his Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, grew from 289 in 2010 to 3,519 for the first eight months of 2013. (Answers to the question are arranged below on a spectrum from "yes" at the top to "no" at the bottom.)
"There's no particular problem with baptism immediately following conversion; practices changed in the early church. If the church has nothing in place to encourage faith formation, that's a problem. But one can't make a strong case that catechesis needs to be before baptism."
~ Joel Green, professor, Fuller Theological Seminary
"Demanding that we delay baptisms to ensure against false professions is to pursue a good objective in an unbiblical manner. We should be concerned with people who make false professions of faith. But we should not protect against that by robbing genuine believers of a resource God intended them to have."
~ J. D. Greear, pastor, The Summit Church
"I'm all for baptizing a person as soon as possible, but we must be cautious and exercise discernment. Not all spontaneous baptisms are wrong. But I would argue for more time—not less—before baptizing one who confesses Christ as Lord. Not a whole year. But definitely more time than two praise songs."
~ Tony Merida, pastor, Imago Dei Church
"There needs to be a time of education, conscious reflection, and prayer. This shouldn't be raced through. The New Testament says baptism is a one-time-only sacrament. You are making a commitment before God that is as serious as a heart attack."
~ Ben Witherington, author, Troubled Waters: Rethinking the Theology of Baptism
"Spontaneous baptisms fall far outside the norm and expectation of how this ordinance is to be obeyed and administered as we see in the New Testament. There needs to be an opportunity for the new believer to come to an understanding of the faith and of discipleship adequate to understand what is taking place."
~ R. Albert Mohler Jr., president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
"Baptisms with slipshod interviews to ensure candidates really know what it means to follow Christ are unethical. Baptism is a sign of union with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection. So baptizing a person who hasn't been born again is speaking falsehood about the gospel."
~ Russell Moore, president, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
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