I’ve mentioned Al Maxey several times in this blog. If you aren’t subscribed to his Reflections email, you should be. Al occasionally makes mincemeat our of some of our Church of Christ sacred cows, and he does God’s kingdom (and especially our little corner of it) a great service in the process. He was also the first preacher I ever heard preacher who wasn’t wearing a tie (he was in a Hawaiian shirt… he was also in Hawaii), so I liked him before he ever said anything!
In this week’s installment of Reflections, he takes to task a preacher who was taking liberal churches to task for the highly offensive practice of... applauding at baptisms. Players in the NFL sometimes get penalized for “excessive celebration.” To clapp and cheer when someone gives their life to Christ and has their sins washed away is excessive celebration that has no place in church!
Al points to the celebration at the homecoming of the Prodigal Son where they was music and dancing because the lost was found and the dead was alive again (Luke 15:24). This is the joy that is expressed in heaven when the lost one comes home (Luke 15:7,10). It is the kind of joy expressed by the Ethiopian Eunuch who “went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39). It is hard to see why expressing that joy together in the assembly would be inappropriate. On the contrary, it is inappropriate not to express joy!
Why would anyone be so critical of spontaneous applause of approval and joy when someone is baptized? It is basically seen as a worldly violation of worship protocol that is neither decent nor in order. Al quotes from the preacher (named John Waddey)--
"One way to respond to those trying to justify their practice is to ask if they would applaud at their mother's funeral. If not, why? Would they have applauded at Christ's death and burial? Why not? Baptism is a symbolic re-enactment of the death and burial of Jesus Christ. Is that an appropriate time for applause?"
Waddey rightly points out that baptism is a sacred of reenactment of Jesus death and burial. But then no one claps (in my experience) when someone goes into the water. In our experience here at Denbigh, applause break out when the person comes UP OUT OF THE WATER! Baptism is also a picture of Jesus’ resurrection and our resurrection from sin into a new life. So Al responds to the funeral analogy like this--
Waddey wondered if someone would actually dare to applaud at their mother's funeral. John, if she rose up out of that coffin ... YES, I would applaud. God help me, I might even shout and leap into the air! Should we express great joy (as do the angels in heaven) when someone arises from the watery grave? If not, why not, John?! For those who are offended and distracted by such expressions of joy over a brother brought to life, there is ample room outside the Father's house in the darkness with the elder brother! He didn't care for the celebration either!
Amen! I don’t believe that excessive celebration is one of the problems that we have in church… following baptisms or at any other time!