It seems that the approach taken by many contemporary Church ministries toward the Great Commission is somewhat like what former ABC News anchorman Ted Koppel once complained about with respect to the Ten Commandments during a commencement address he delivered at Duke University. Some may remember that he bemoaned the fact, approaching twenty-five years ago now, that so many people looked upon them as the Ten Suggestions, rather than the Ten Commandments.
The way most Churches these days approach our marching orders, the Great Commission, reflects the same mindset Koppel complained about. People ignore the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ was extremely specific when He authorized actions to be taken on His behalf.
This means Churches are authorized to do what falls under their charter and are not authorized to do what does not fall under their charter. But few seem to be concerned about that charter these days. Churches with their Church members are commanded to go. Churches with their Church members are commanded to make disciples. Churches with their Church members are then commanded to baptize disciples. Churches have no right to alter that sequence of events. Around the world, we find the very best Churches indiscriminately baptizing people without taking any prudent steps to make sure they are baptizing real disciples.
If a pastor baptizes hopeful converts immediately upon their profession of faith, if a pastor baptizes hopeful converts without personally examining their testimonies with the utmost caution, if, for example, a pastor talks about how “an entire family of four was saved and baptized,” then I and those with experience carefully listening to sinners about their conversion experiences can guarantee to you that such a pastor is almost certainly baptizing people without authorization.
Why don’t pastors concern themselves with their authority? A pastor is not authorized to baptize someone just because that individual says he’s converted. A pastor is not authorized to baptize someone who is not a genuine Christian. The Bible teaches, and Baptists most assuredly believe, that baptism is for saved people only. The baptism of the lost is unauthorized. Why, then, aren’t pastors more careful to conduct their ministries under the umbrella of divinely instituted authority?