When a person obeys the gospel, we know that there is rejoicing in heaven (Lk. 15:7). As if to put a damper on this reality it is the idea of some that heavenly elation is louder if conversions come from people who have no filial connection to members of churches of Christ. The impression is left that if we are baptizing the children of members of the church then our evangelism is somehow lackluster. The criticism is made that church growth is coming through “human propagation” (conversion of our own children) rather than by outside evangelism. Is teaching and seeing our children converted to Christ something less than real evangelism?
It is no secret that we in churches of Christ have not seen the numerical growth that we would like in recent decades. One reason for that may be the failure to teach and baptize our children as we once did. Who is to say that the obedience of our young people is not just as needed as that of the “unchurched”? Certainly, the parents think so!
It is not always easy to know when a child is old enough to be baptized into Christ. Long ago, T. B. Larimore baptized Batsell Baxter, father of Batsell Barrett Baxter, at the tender age of seven. In most cases we would say that a seven-year-old is too young to be baptized, but in brother Baxter’s case he proved to be a faithful servant of the Lord for many years. Sometimes when young people are immersed into Christ critics will accuse us of practicing “semi-infant baptism.” That was not true in Batsell Baxter’s case. And if the child or grand-child of the critic were involved I suspect there would be nothing but praise.
Many factors account for the very young seeking baptism. Some young people are baptized from a purely emotional response. A fiery preacher brings them down the isles as young as 7-8 years old. Sometimes at summer camp kids are baptized in droves around emotionally charged campfire devotionals. Some young people are baptized because their friends have been baptized. We need to encourage one another, but, the decision has to come from the heart (Rom. 6:17; 1 Pet. 3:21). Some young people are baptized because adults have pressured them into it. Well-intentioned grown-ups ask, “Isn’t it about time for you to be baptized?” Again, the decision must be one’s own. Salvation is always the result of obeying Christ in all that he teaches, including baptism for the remission of sins (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 22:16; Gal. 3:27).