Additional questions from February 26, 2017
"Why are there so many traditions in the church?"
Q - If you don’t need to be baptized to be a child of God, why do you need to be baptized to be a member of the Alliance denomination?
A – Great question. Baptism is not a necessary part of becoming a child of God, but it is a normal part becoming a Christian, and it is also something that was both demonstrated and commanded by Jesus of his disciples (in Matthew 3:13-17; Matthew 28:19-20). Because of this, we, in the Alliance Church, and in almost all other Christian churches (the Salvation Army is a notable exception), practice baptism as a normal part of church and Christian life. We require baptism for membership in normal circumstances because baptism, like local church membership, is something that we understand to be a normal part of the process of Christian growth in the life of every believer as we submit ourselves to the example and teaching of Jesus.
Q - Do I need to be baptized before I participate in the communion? Is it considered a tradition?
A - Both baptism and communion are considered to be more than traditions, but sacraments, meaning that they have been commanded by Jesus Christ as physical acts that communicate divine grace for our lives in a special way. You do not need to be baptized to receive communion – you just need to believe in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. But if you do believe in Jesus, I would encourage you to pursue baptism as well.
Q - Why does the Deer Park Worship team not have communion at the same time as the congregation?
A – The Deer Park Church worship team often partakes of communion earlier on Sunday mornings so that they are able to lead in worship during the time of communion. This is something that we do as a tradition, and we would be open to changing it. It is a part of their ‘sacrifice of praise’ – the way that they sacrifice some of their own desires and comfort in worship in order to lead the people of God.
Q - In some churches infant baptism is seen as salvation. How scripturally can this be justified?
A – Churches that baptize infants usually point to passages like Acts 16:33 where it says that the Philippian jailer and his whole household were baptized, and also to the long tradition of the church. In our church tradition, we would point instead to what we see as the clear example of Scripture, that of believer’s baptism, of repenting and then being baptized, and of making disciples and then baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Many churches continue to baptize infants; this practice more closely reflects an understanding of the Christian community as a nation, like Israel, and the rite of baptism like the rite of the circumcision of infants as a marker of inclusion in the covenant. In our church, we do not believe that infant baptism communicates grace or is a testimony to a life converted to faith in Christ in the way that believer’s baptism is.
Q – Both my friend and I grew up in traditional churches, my friend in the Catholic faith and I in the Anglican faith. Since we became believers and have attended evangelical type churches we have noticed that some important events in the Bible are not celebrated, one of which is Lent. It may get mentioned a few times but there is not much discussion or special services except for a Good Friday service. Can you explain why that is?
A – Another great question. I think it is wonderful when individuals in our church celebrate events on the church calendar that we do not highlight as a community, such as the ascension of Jesus, Lent, or even epiphany (the coming of the wise men). These are not events that save us, but they can strengthen our faith or add to our Christian life. As regards to Lent in particular, some years I have observed it—sometimes along with my church community and sometimes alone—and some years I haven’t. It is a traditional season of fasting, or of adding a spiritual discipline such as reading an extra passage in your Bible, to prepare for Good Friday and Easter. Lent is not in the Bible, but seasons of prayer and fasting are, and if God lays it on your heart, Lent is a wonderful time of year to rededicate yourself to him in purity of heart and conscience. As a church, we have no objection to Lent (at its best – its abuses we would reject) but it has never been our tradition to observe this part of the Christian calendar as a community, with the exception, as you say, of Good Friday, which we will be observing this year.