River Baptism

River Baptism

by Dale Grubaugh

“Let’s all go down to river...”

“Shall we gather at the river...”

Both are the beginning of songs that are used in one of the most beautiful expressions of Christian faith, baptism of the believer in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

I have been a pastor for 35 years and one of the most exciting aspects of what I do is perform the ordinance of baptism.

Baptism is the outward expression of what God has done for the believer in Jesus Christ.

Baptism does not guarantee salvation.

Baptism is the act performed because a person has been saved.

A person can be baptized everyday until Jesus returns and still miss heaven if they have never trusted Christ as Savior.

John 3:16 does not say that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten baptism and that whoever is baptized will never perish but have everlasting life.

No, sir! It says God gave His Son Jesus and if we believe in Him we have everlasting life.

The mode of baptism varies, I practice emersion which is what the word literally means. Going completely in the water symbolizes the burial of the old way of life and coming up out of the water represents being resurrected to a new way of life.

At Smyrna Baptist Church we don’t have a baptistery in the church.

So we go to the river, just like the songs say.

Although the conditions can not be controlled, I like going to a free flowin‘, open body of water for baptizing.

The first river baptism I ever witnessed was at Cook Station, Missouri, in the Meramec River...in the dead of winter.

The Meramec is cold in the middle of July, I can’t imagine what it was like on that cold winter day as my cousin was baptized. I was intrigued by the event and the memory of it day has stayed with me all my life.

I have baptized folks of all ages and sizes. One time I baptized a bunch of youngin’s and it turned into a swimming party — much to the dismay of some of the older folks. They thought we were being irreverent, but to the kids it was a celebration. Besides we were in the river and they were already wet so, why not?

Another time I baptized a lady who was much taller than me (and who had a really long nose). Try as I might, I could not get her nose all the way into the water!

She thought I was tryin’ to drown her. And there were a couple of folks who thought I hadn’t finished the job because her nose didn’t go in.

I guess they thought she might show up in heaven without her nose.

One lady wore a swimming cap so her hair wouldn’t get wet. You guessed it. Someone didn’t like that idea either!

I baptized a pregnant lady once. And she in turn baptized me.

As I laid her back in the water, her feet came out from under her. She got scared and grabbed me around the neck, my feet came out from under me, and we both went down. You never saw such thrashin’ and carryin’ on.

One young man I baptized was so short, I had to hold him up out of the water till it was time to baptize him. Then I just dunked him.

Aside from the funny and fun things, there is beauty and purpose as well.

The young man in these pictures has become a strong worker in the church and one of my best friends.

Just last Sunday evening we went down to Linden Lure on the Finley River to baptize three adults.

Now Linden is a pretty popular place with those who want to play in the river. Needless to say there were several folks there and most of them watched with respect and reverence.

As I was coming out of the river a young man stepped through the crowd and said “I need to do that too.”

We prayed together along with other men of our congregation. Great things have begun all because we went down to the river.

’Till next time,

Elias Tucker

July 17, 2010

plate 1. Reed Bridge, Finley River (Christian County, Missouri).

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About the columnist:

Dale Grubaugh, writing as “Elias Tucker from The Holler” is a valued contributor to State of the Ozarks. He is a man who loves his Ozark culture deeply.

As a Southern Baptist preacher and pastor, Dale has dedicated his life to the people of these hills.

Also, he has worked hard in many facets of the Branson show industry. And he has lived the Ozarks, fishing, hunting, appreciating the wilds that are so close — but so closely forgotten.

— Joshua Heston, editor

Photo credits: J. Heston, State of the Ozarks © Archive.

dogwood petal

Elias Tucker




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