On Sunday, our church gathered at a local beach and baptized thirteen people. It’s one of my favorite corporate gatherings every year. Combine food, sand, salt water, and baptism—now that’s something this Baptist can get excited about. But our beach baptism Sundays are more than a time of fellowship. They are strategic. Here is why.
Beach baptisms are public. When we’re at the beach baptizing people, it’s obvious. Others will gather, mingle, and watch with our church. They will ask questions like, “What does this mean?” or “Why are you doing this?” Public baptisms—by design—invite gospel opportunities.
Beach baptisms connect us to church history. Most baptisms today are done indoors. I don’t have a theological issue with indoor baptisms, and this transition indoors is not a surprise given weather problems and the logistics of worship services today. Historically, however, baptisms were done outdoors. The tradition is connected to Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. There is part of me that does not want to lose the tradition of going down to the river (or beach) to baptize.
Beach baptisms celebrate the right thing. You become what you celebrate. At my church, we desire a culture of evangelism and public professions. So we celebrate baptism. Sunday was a big party. Families were baptized together. People said yes to Jesus. We feasted.
Beach baptisms bring everyone together. My church is a multi-everything church. We have people from all over the nation, different denominational backgrounds, different ethnicities, different socioeconomic statuses, different languages, and different generations. We even have four different Sunday morning services in two different languages. We try to make the most of opportunities for everyone to come together. Beach baptism is a great opportunity to make the “multi” into “one.”
Living close to the beach has its perks. We’re only six miles from some of the greatest shores on the planet. However, most churches adhering to the doctrine of believer’s baptism can perform outdoor baptisms. I’ve baptized in rivers, ponds, and lakes. Some of them were muddier and more memorable than others. But all of them were worth it.