Local churches are often faced with the question of whether a particular form of worship should be practiced according to the Bible’s teaching. There are three categories that help us to discern what should and should not be a part of regular worship. Is the practice 1) Biblical, 2) Unbiblical, or 3) Extrabiblical?
Biblical practices are explicitly commanded in the Scriptures as non-negotiable elements of corporate worship. These would include elements like musical worship, prayer, preaching God’s Word, the Lord’s Supper, and Baptism. Un-biblical practices contradict or oppose the Bible’s teaching. These would include for example ordaining unqualified pastors or deacons, overlooking issues of sin, baptizing unbelievers, teaching false doctrine, etc. Lastly, extrabiblical practices are those that are not described in Scripture but do not contradict any of the teachings of Scripture. For example, do we use a piano or guitar in our musical worship or both? This question is extrabiblical meaning there is no verse of Scripture or principle which leads us to answer one way or another. When faced with questions like this we must make Spirit-led decisions discerning whether the practice helps to accomplish principles that are explicitly commanded in the Scriptures.
What About Baby Dedications?
Baby dedications fit into the extrabiblical category. While the practice is not commanded in the Bible, baby dedications have been incorporated into church life. Baby dedications are a time for church members to introduce their newborn babies to the church family for a time of focused prayer. Parents traditionally bring their little one to the front of the congregation at the end of a worship service and the church prays for both the baby and for the parents. The word dedication means commitment. The parents are committing to raise the child according to God’s word and the congregation is committing to help raise the child in the way of the Lord and to support the parents in the journey ahead.
Before outlining a few reasons why this practice has been embraced, it is important to recognize certain distinctions between the Baptistic baby dedication and the Roman Catholic infant baptism. Baby dedications are not a form of infant baptism. Baptists believe that the ordinance of Baptism is reserved exclusively for those who have made a conscious profession of faith in Jesus Christ for their salvation. The act of baptism is a symbol of new spiritual life in someone who has already received salvation through their faith and repentance. Babies who are dedicated still must one day make a profession of faith and then decide to join the official membership of a local church.
If the baby dedication is not commanded in the Scriptures, however, we must ask whether the practice is helpful in fulfilling the mission of the church. Here are 3 reasons why I believe baby dedications, while not essential, can be a beneficial practice for accomplishing the church’s mission to glorify God by making disciples of all nations.
#1 For the Worship of God
Psalm 145:4-10 One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of our awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
Worship is the ultimate purpose of the world, the church, and of every individual. When we gather on Sunday mornings we worship God for being the creator, savior, provider, and sustainer of all things. Every Sunday we celebrate his mighty acts through song, teaching, fellowship, and testimony. The Birth of a child is one of the greatest most astounding miracles of God in which he is directly involved forming the child in the mother’s womb. (Ps. 139:13) The birth of a child the analogy which the Bible uses to describe the miracle of salvation and the new birth of spiritual life when someone turns to Jesus as Lord and Savior. (Jn. 3:1-16; 1 Pt. 1:3, 23) The presentation and prayer for a child at the end of a worship service is a way of acknowledging God’s handiwork and responding with prayers of thanksgiving, adoration, and petition.
#2 For the Discipleship of Children
A baby dedication is a practical opportunity for the parents and for the church family to make a public commitment to care for the spiritual growth and development of a child. I live more than 8 hours away from any blood relatives. This means that my son will need spiritual grandmothers, grandfathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, and aunts to look up to. He will need models of godliness all around him teaching him and showing him how to walk in the way of the Lord. When my son comes to church, he needs to come to a church family that will forever shape his understanding of God and the church. He needs the wide variety of spiritual giftings that the church body offers that his mother and I do not possess. With a baby dedication the congregation publicly acknowledges their responsibility and commitment to the discipleship of a church member’s child and to the care for their soul.
Deuteronomy 6:4-7 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
#3 For Partnership with Parents
Parenting is not an easy endeavor. It is a difficult journey full of uncertainty, but it does not have to be done alone. The church is a family of people who bear one another’s burdens, share one another’s, and build one another up. It is through the partnership of the church that parents find the strength, support, wisdom, and accountability to raise their children in the instruction of the Lord. It is a sweet thing to know that I am surrounded by people who love my family and who have experienced a wide variety of difficulties along the journey of parenting. The church is a gift of God to parents struggling to figure it out as they go. The baby dedication is a practical opportunity for the church family to make public commitment to not only the child, but to the parents of the child as fellow members of the household of God.
For these reasons, our church has decided to annually invite all church members who have had babies during that year to come forward at the end of a Sunday morning service for a time of corporate prayer. It is our hope that God will be worshipped and that our commitment to the discipleship of children and partnership with parents will be renewed.
By His Grace & For His Glory,
Pastor Brandon Langley
St. Rose Community Church