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Friday, May 22, 2009 

Does Ablaze! Count Baptisms Now?

From last week’s inbox comes this School Ministry E-Bulletin story under the heading “Ablaze Moments in Lutheran Schools”…

ABLAZE Moments

In the past 15 years, Our Redeemer Lutheran School in Fords, NJ, with an average enrollment of 100 students in Grades PK-8, has baptized 16 students. On May 10, #17 will be baptized, and #18 will become a child of God on June 14. God is so good!!!!

The fact that 18 children have been heirs of heaven in the waters of Holy Baptism is a blessing indeed as the sacrament “works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare”.

But… I have to ask the question; is Ablaze! now counting baptisms? The reason the question is important is that for the longest time the Ablaze! website explained the methodology of the program this way:

"We are not counting baptisms or conversions. We are counting the number of Gospel seeds planted."

That same page that the LCMS set up to explain Ablaze! methods: "Are we really counting? If so, what exactly are we counting?" now states:

We are counting sharing the Gospel with individuals--seeds planted in faith…

See the difference? The statement that we do not count baptisms is no longer there! So, are we counting baptisms or not? If we are now counting baptisms, when did we start?

Don’t get me wrong, counting the sacrament of Baptism is a very good thing! One of my biggest problems with the whole Ablaze! fad is the lack of focus on and never pointing to the Means of Grace; the Word preached purely and the Sacraments rightly administered. The Means of Grace should be the only things we look to for visible signs of the Church on this side of eternity. To look elsewhere for signs of a visible church or pretending that we can see what lies in the human heart is the same vain and futile effort and thinking that sent many a Pharisee skipping their merry way down the road to perdition.

I hope that we are indeed counting baptisms now. I would also hope like heck that we hired the right consultant this time to tell us that Scripture and our Confessions have been pointing us to the Means of Grace as something to be counted for quite a bit longer than the Madison Avenue marketing gurus have been saying that the Means of Grace are only an impediment to growing Christ’s church.

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But what if the person being baptized was already counted when they were told by some pious Lutheran Christian the good news Frank? Wouldn't that skew the numbers? I think we should rquire the person being baptized to sign an affidavit stating they hadn't previously been counted.

One of my non-Lutheran neighbors had their child baptized in a non-Lutheran church. Can we count that? Oops. Never mind - it only counts if it was a Lutheran Christian who initiated the critical event or was baptized. It's only about what we do. Wait a minute. I thought it was supposed to be about what Jesus did!

Good questions all Scott but I don’t think accurate counting is the standard that is hoped for with Ablaze!. If the standard was being accountable then the website wouldn’t jump a couple million hits at a time with the only explanation being “look at us and all the good we done did”.

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  • I'm Frank Gillespie
  • From The Haut South
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