THE NEWEST BELIEVER AMONG US WAS SLIPPING AWAY IN FRONT OF my eyes, and I felt powerless to prevent it.
Aaron* had been a joy to study with—a young man already in love with Jesus who had found in the truths of Adventism the confidence that he was following Jesus on the road of discipleship. Our Bible studies week by week, usually preceded by a vigorous hour of racquetball at the gym, had been openhearted, frank, and faith-building—for both of us.
Aaron’s decision for baptism was an occasion for deep joy in our small congregation, and on the appointed Sabbath afternoon almost the entire church piled into cars to caravan to the conference youth camp to witness his public commitment to Jesus. As 30 friends sang on the shoreline, Aaron and I waded out into the sun-dappled water, elated by the moment of joy and beauty God had created for us.
I had taken the precaution to wear sneakers out into the mud I knew lay just beyond the gravel edge, but Aaron stood beside me as barefoot as a newborn, gripping my arm with the fierce intensity of a man who knows he is making the most important decision of his life.
Because all of us had driven a full hour to the lake, I didn’t want the moment of celebration to pass too quickly, and I had mentally prepared a short homily to offer from the water—partly a telling of Aaron’s story, partly an encouragement to others to choose as he had chosen. But halfway through my narrative, the baptismal candidate began to disappear—literally.
Unsupported by wide, flat sneakers such as I was wearing, Aaron was slowly sinking into the deep mud of the lake bottom at the rate of about an inch every 10 seconds, growing shorter every moment. Only halfway through my story, I suddenly realized that if I didn’t stop talking, Aaron would go under before I said, “I now baptize you . . .”
Some moments won’t hold, and this was one of them. I quickly terminated my remarks, committed him to the care of his brothers and sisters in Christ, and baptized him in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as the water closed above his shoulders.
I learned a lesson that Sabbath afternoon about giving new believers a firm footing when we call them to stand with us in the family of God. And it’s a lesson I’m reminded of almost every week as I hear and read the painful statistics that reveal how many new believers disappear from among us each year because they haven’t found their footing. Unless they make friends in their new church family, unless they develop new disciplines of prayer and Bible study, unless they are grounded in the “literature of a new lifestyle,” thousands will sink into the mud, even after their baptism.
You hold in your hands—or see on your screen—one of the most important tools in Adventism for grounding new believers in the faith of Jesus. For 160 years hundreds of thousands of new believers have found a place to stand because the weekly Adventist Review gives them a firm footing.
You can make that happen for thousands more of the new believers who have joined God’s remnant church in 2010. For just $15 you can put solid bedrock under one new believer by providing 36 issues of the Adventist Review—delivered to their mailbox each week. Footing for five—just $75—is less than the price of a meal for five at a midrange restaurant. Ten new believers will be lifted, encouraged, and built up in Jesus by your gift of $150 to this magazine’s New Believer Plan. You can underwrite a group the size of a whole new congregation of 65 for your love gift of $1,000.
Please read my special letter inserted in this edition prayerfully and carefully. I need your help to secure the 40,000 new believers who joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America in 2010—and for the thousands more whom God will bring to us in the months ahead.
Don’t let the men and women Jesus has found disappear before our eyes.
*not his real name
Bill Knott is editor of the Adventist Review. This article was published November 18, 2010.