We believe that God first loved us even before we were born. We believe that He initiates the call to us and loves us even when we are unable to love Him. Baptism is an important piece of that story of love and grace in our relationship to God.
Every year, all the campuses of Harbor Churches come together to celebrate baptisms. We gather along the shore of Lake Michigan at Camp Geneva (this year’s event is August 11). It is a day for the whole family, we enjoy the grounds of Camp Geneva, have dinner and worship together.
We believe that Baptism is a sign of God’s deep and saving love for us. The New Testament – not being an individualistic culture – did not distinguish between adult and infant baptism because when the head of a household became a believer, so did his whole family. Only in more contemporary Christianity has “believer baptism” been more clearly clarified and defined. Baptism, then, is for adults and for infants. Although the two types of baptism share some things in common – including the name “baptism” – they also have different meanings. Jesus’ close follower, Peter, said this in Acts 2:38-39: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” We believe that the promise is for infants and believers, but that these two types of baptism have important distinctions.
The great Christian missionary Paul says this in Romans 10:9, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised [Jesus] from the dead, you will be saved.” Believer baptism in the early church was a sign and seal of this profession of faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If infant baptism is like a pre-arranged marriage and engagement of faith, then the believers profession is like the “wedding” of faith – a committed covenant in which a person receives the deep love of God and returns it in committed faith. Baptism itself does not save a person. Paul says it this way in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”
For more information or to see if you are ready to be baptized, read through this helpful document: Believer Baptism at Harbor Churches.
In infant baptism, we acknowledge a number of things.
First, that we are sinful even at birth and that God loves us when we are helpless. In the Old Testament covenant that God makes with Abraham, He promises to be God to Abraham, to his children, and to all who come after him. In infant baptism, most of all, we acknowledge the promise of God to love us first before we even have the capacity or desire to try and deserve or earn that love.
Second, parents or guardians and the church make a commitment to raise a particular child to come to know their God and His son Jesus Christ. We say that the child is “engaged to profess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.” In effect, the parents pre-arrange a faith “marriage” to Jesus, but in this engagement, this child will one day need to make that faith commitment themselves through a profession of their faith as adult believers.
Children are not saved through baptism. Instead, we remember and signify the promises of God, the promises of parents and the church community, and commit together to help this child come to a knowledge of and faith in Jesus Christ as savior and Lord.
Believer baptism is available in worship throughout the year, and during the summer we celebrate together with our other congregations in a special One Church Family Baptism Celebration. Infant baptisms are scheduled throughout the year in our individual campuses.
You can contact any of our campuses to find out more about upcoming baptism classes and talk to someone about your involvement.