Baptism: An Essential Change

Baptism scene at Lake Victoria, Uganda

Baptism scene at Lake Victoria, Uganda

Sometimes you must make a U-turn. Very seldom do you want to make this change in direction, but if you want to reach your destination, you know you must.

IMFC is having to make a U-turn with the way we do baptisms. Now what we are doing is working if you only consider numbers and not future vision. In 2013, we baptized about 1300; in 2014, we baptized almost 2200. Then last year the number of people baptized jumped to almost 4500. What happened? We begin to seriously train what we call “Stage 4 disciples” and God blessed abundantly! As trained leaders went out sharing the Gospel across Uganda and Kenya, the call for support to baptize hundreds of new believers grew exponentially and we learned that we can never reach our vision doing things as we are. We must go backward to go forward.

Our Vision: Acts 11:19-21
(19) Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. (20) Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. (21) The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

This our vision! It is to see disciples of Jesus running with the Gospel across Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Central African Republic, DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. The disciples in Acts 11:19 were uneducated, unordained and poor. They were refugees without homes, jobs, support, money, Bibles, discipleship books, church buildings and programs. They had nothing but a burning message about God’s grace in Jesus that had dramatically changed their lives and the hand of Almighty God that rested upon them. But they lead many, many to faith in Christ and planted the church in Antioch that would carry their message to the ends of the world through the Apostle Paul.

These disciples in Act 11 are my heroes. They are my role models and ministry models. I want to be one of them and I want to raise up a crowd of followers just like them. And that’s why we must change how we handle the cost of baptism. We can no long pay for everyone to be baptized. These disciples in Acts 11 had no one paying for their baptism cost, yet they found a way-if they baptized and I believe they did.

Baptism Lake Victoria

Baptism Lake Victoria

As long as IMFC facilitates all baptisms, we are limited. We have imposed a barrier to the spread of the Gospel. Last year’s number of baptisms could have been much larger than 4500, much larger, but it is all we could handle. If we don’t change course, the problem will only grow as more and more people request funds for baptism and frustration will only increase as they win people to Christ, organize them for baptism and then are told to wait because there are no funds. One day it will implode. The only way forward is to backtrack and change direction.

The people must figure out how to baptize with their meager resources and with the lack of water, otherwise they will simply sit and wait on us. The work will stagnate. And what will the people do, or not do, if something happens to IMFC? What if we did not exist in a year or five years? What if the world economy crashes and IMFC has no money to facilitate baptisms? What will the people do then without our money?

Money, or the lack of it, is not the “real” problem. The “real” problem is dependency. Unknowingly, from the very beginning, we created a mindset of dependency in the Ugandans. The way we organize and do baptism was not possible for them. We taught them they needed us or our resources. I did not know any better at the beginning and it was the model we were given. Now I do. Now I see the future and we must change course to reach the desired destination.

So, join us in praying for this change of direction. Pray that the Lord will give Deo and me wisdom as we lead the change. Deo has already been talking to the leaders in Kampala about this change and they are beginning to understand. This weekend he will be traveling through Eastern Uganda meeting with the leaders to explain this change. Pray that our leaders there will catch the larger vision, understand and be able communicate this to their leaders. Pray that the people will seek to discover ways and means to baptize that they can provide when there appears to be none. And pray for the volunteer teams who will want to see a baptism as before and may not be able to. Pray that they understand the reason why we will not accept their money and allow them pay for a baptism they can be a part of. Pray they can also see the bigger picture. This maybe the most difficult part of the change!

Thanks for your prayers as we grow for beyond anything we anticipated at the beginning of our work 10 years ago. God has truly, truly blessed.

Jimmy

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