November 18, 2009

This Is Their First Warming

2009 1532 page6 cap’VE BAPTIZED NEW BELIEVERS IN PONDS AND LAKES AND PORTABLE tanks, but never were the candidates any colder than that winter day in Berrien Springs.
Eight teenagers were publicly testifying of their love for Jesus that Sabbath morning, and I thought I had prepared well. Baptismal certificates were readied, flowers ordered, home visits had been made.
But in the early hours of Sabbath morning it dawned on me that no one had notified the deacons to turn on the baptistery heater. Not so bad, I thought to myself. A little cold won’t kill us.
When I stepped into the water at 11:10 a.m., I realized just how wrong I was. Drawn from some deep Arctic aquifer running under Berrien Springs, the water in the tank that morning could not have been warmer than 35 degrees F. I felt my lungs tighten instantly, and soon lost all sensation below the water line.
As each of the teens stepped into the frigid water, the sharp intake of breath was clear and precise. Though I usually spend several moments talking about my history with a baptismal candidate, that morning I cut it short in mercy—for them and me. My voice and hands were shaking with the cold; their lips were turning blue.
2009 1532 page6And when I plunged them under the surface, they sprang back up with an effortlessness I have never seen with dozens of other candidates. It took no lift to get them upright: they were glad to rise and walk into newness of life—and the sheltering warmth of the thick blankets held by the deaconesses.
It was a cold introduction to what I hoped would be a warm experience of fellowship. I wanted so much for these eager young Christians to know the acceptance and support I had once known as a new believer.
I’ve thought about the Frozen 8 many times in the years since then, worried that what was physically true for them is all too often metaphorically true for thousands of new Adventists.
Each year nearly 40,000 new believers join the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America. Statistics tell us that a startlingly large number of them—sometimes 30 percent or more—drift away in the first 18 months of membership because they don’t find the warmth and security the young of every species need to survive. Though the water may have been warm on the day they were baptized, they found the temperature of their churches lukewarm at best, or positively cool.
It was just for them—for all those chilly babes in Christ—that the Adventist Review launched the New Believer program in 1998. In the past 11 years, tens of thousands of new members have been welcomed into the warm heart of Adventism by a weekly copy of the Adventist Review in their mailbox—a gift made possible by the generosity of you, our readers, at just $15 per new believer.
This year, thanks to the extra efforts of hundreds of pastors and evangelists, an even larger number of new believers will be flooding into Adventist churches across North America. The Year of Evangelism is expected to result in nearly 50,000 baptisms—and an even greater need for your generous support of this program.
Your gift of $100 will provide six new believers with 36 issues of this faith-filled, faith-inspiring magazine. Five hundred dollars will bring 33 new members the best in news, devotionals, and Bible teaching. One thousand dollars will warm the hearts and minds of 66 men and women who need to be grounded in the truths of God’s remnant church. Use the special envelope included in this issue to make your gift.
To thank you for your kindness, we’re offering two special volumes—Radical Prayer, by Pastor Derek Morris, and Take the Risk, Dr. Ben Carson’s inspiring best seller. These remarkable gifts are available for your contributions of $60 and $90, respectively.
This winter, warm up the temperature of your church with a sacrificial gift for the newest of the new—for the new believers who have joined this movement in the past few months. Your kindness will be rewarded with a tax-deductible receipt from the Adventist Review—and with the applause of heaven. 
Bill Knott is editor of the Adventist Review.