My first job was working on the printing press of the Basingstoke Gazette. I never got bored of watching the printing press in action. It was an enormous machine, 30-40 metres in length and very loud. Large rolls of unprinted newspaper were lifted in by forklift truck at one end, and by some magic of engineering, fully printed and folded newspapers came out along a conveyer belt at the other!
I’m not sure that a conveyer belt is a particularly helpful picture to use for the church – better to stick with biblical pictures such as a family or body or building. Nonetheless, as we gathered our whole church together last Sunday afternoon and baptised seven people, this was the picture that was in my mind.
For me, baptism represents the wonderful ‘end product’ of church life. Everything we do, whether that is meeting in our Life Groups, worshipping on a Sunday or fixing a whiteboard to the wall in our offices (thanks, Mike!), it is all working towards that one aim of seeing people give their lives to Jesus and then demonstrate that through baptism.
So, it was with great excitement that we packed into Swanfield Chapel (who kindly lent us the use of their baptism pool for the afternoon), with every seat taken and many more standing at the back. It is always good to hear people tell their own story of what Jesus has done in their lives and why they are getting baptised. Of the seven people we baptised this time, we had two who have recently moved into the area and realised their need to commit their lives to Jesus, two younger people who have grown up in Christian families but are now declaring for themselves that Jesus is their Lord, and three people who have recently completed our Alpha Course and given their lives to Jesus as a result.
As I listened to each story and watched each person being baptised, I thought, “This is what it is all about. This is why I do the job I do!” There is probably more magical engineering in the mechanisms of church life than there is in a printing press. I enjoy everything we do and every ministry and activity and event plays an important part. But let’s never forget to keep looking for the ‘end product’. Hopefully, in the coming months we will baptise many more people who have had their lives transformed by Jesus.